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Post Brexit trade – a refreshing British-Austrian perspective from an experienced UK industrialist

February 17, 2021 3:51 PM
By Paul Walter a Liberal Democrat activist. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

5ew4 (By University of Essex . from United Kingdom - Regius Professorship Lecture, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56219002)Last night's Shirley Williams Lecture (SWL) was really enlightening but also quite scary.

The speaker was Juergen Maier CBE, described as follows on the SWL website:

One of the UK's leading industrialists and business thinkers, Juergen Maier rose to prominence as the Chief Executive of Siemens UK. A regular on Question Time and a Board Member of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Juergen has been outspoken on major issues such as Brexit, Industrial Strategy and the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Juergen gave us a little more detail about his life story. After being born in Germany, he grew up in Leeds from the age of ten and went to Nottingham Trent University.

As a result of this unusual background, Juergen Maier is able to provide a unique perspective - British-Austrian with a deep insight in British business and trade.

Some highlights which stood out for me were:

I asked a question under the cloak of anonymity:

Is there something about the British psyche - compared to that of the EU27 - where we get more excited about the mythical advantage of passport colour than the bread and butter of trade?

Juergen Maier's response surprised me in its emotional power. He mentioned that his grand-father was a Nazi soldier, a close relative lived through the bombing of Dresden. He said that people in Austria, Germany and France have a completely different perspective borne out of their history. They earnestly look to the EU to preserve peace and reach out to people in other countries in a genuine spirit of openness. He said that if there was a referendum in the UK about preserving peace then it would be lost. But if you held a referendum in Germany or Austria about peace then it would be won.

The Shirley Williams Lecture website allows you to join up as a member to enjoy future monthly lectures and watch recordings of past ones including last night's by Juergen Maier.

This article first appeared in Lib Dem Voice