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CRJ comment on Brexit: What next for emergency resilience and response? 

The Crisis Response Journal is a proudly apolitical publication; this is one of our fundamental doctrines and we determinedly eschew partisanship, instead weighing up political events and issues, commenting upon and promoting only those that are judged to improve the safety, security and resilience of humanity, where they help individuals and communities to survive and thrive with dignity and in peace, wherever they might be in the world.

CRJ is also an international publication, determined to cover any issues from a global perspective, not viewed through the distorted prism of a national lens. We hope that this is noticed and appreciated by our global readership.

Yet the vote for the UK to leave the European Union is a political move so momentous that it might shake in ways as yet unknown the very foundations of all the work, efforts and passion that our readers and contributors have been striving together for in terms of unified safety, disaster prevention, response and resilience. And the result could be a less secure world, at a time when we face ever-greater risks – including climate change, conflict and extremism – along with their grim attendant impacts.

We are saddened that a narrow majority of the British public has focused its frustration, disillusion, disenfranchisement and defiance into voting to leave. Setting the widely reported complaints about the EU aside, millions appear to be unaware of the changes that the EU has wrought in past decades with regard to safety, security and, indeed, peace.

CRJ has extensively reported on how in virtually all aspects of our lives, European projects have been seeking solutions to, and improvements in, just about every area that can improve the existence of people within its borders and further afield.

These include enabling research into scientific solutions and responses to climate change, measures and standards on fire safety, electrical safety, agriculture and food safety, security, policing, counter-terrorism, evacuation issues, public warning systems, marine safety, pollution, flooding, critical infrastructure protection and cyber security, to name but a few. We have reported on the EU Medical Corps, massive joint exercises between emergency responders and partners, the immense humanitarian aid efforts that European Member States have worked together to provide, and initiatives to promote stability in fragile and vulnerable areas.

Today’s risks are shared and usually indiscriminate, they do not respect borders, and neither should the international co-operation required to counter and mitigate these hazards. Future threats – which CRJ has also reported on extensively – could well now include isolationism, lack of unity, incoherence, fragmentation, polarisation of political and religious views, intolerance, extremism and mistrust. As Dr Patrick Lagadec has often said, we are now indisputably in unchartered territory.

The reactive stages to this news are similar to those of grief or a breakup – shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing and acceptance. Institutions, leadership, businesses and individuals across Europe are all at various junctures of this process. It is vital to avoid kneejerk reactions at all costs; it is a time for measured reflection and for working out how to continue building a future that protects everyone, leaving party politics, dogma and point scoring aside. The stakes are too great to do otherwise.

Over the short and long term in the UK, we will observe lessons in how to conduct – or not to conduct – resilience and contingency management on a national scale. Perhaps the Government should appoint a dedicated minister and department to focus purely on national resilience and horizon scanning in the light of a proposed Brexit, and to take a holistic view of unanticipated consequences, considering not only what is best for the UK’s future overall resilience at all levels, but how this fits into a wider context of a shocked and, let’s admit it – angry – Europe.

The rest of Europe and the Commission should not be too quick to succumb to the negative extreme reactions of a spurned partner, however challenging this might be – especially taken against a background of calls from elements demanding similar referenda within their own nations. For make no mistake, there are dissenters – dissatisfied and disillusioned people across the continent – and their views, right or wrong, cannot be simply dismissed or belittled, or they risk being exploited by political or ideological opportunists and could grow into uncontainable contagion. Ignore them at your peril.

Peace, safety and security should outshine politics – institutions and political careers wax and wane. In terms of security, safety and resilience, we cannot overestimate the importance of working together in a unified and co-operative manner. Equally important is the need to communicate effectively all this essential work being carried out to protect citizens.

This plea is probably naïve and utopian; we live in uncertain, disturbed, cynical, self-serving and self-centred times. But the Crisis Response Journal will continue, as ever, to do all it can to raise awareness of indispensable international co-operative initiatives and research, to promote understanding of how facing risks together and how working to confront them in co-operation still makes us all stronger.

Emily Hough 

Emily Hough, 26/06/2020
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