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A British Engineer’s Apology to Europe

A British Engineer’s Apology to Europe

At the moment, I’m mostly embarrassed. Sure, I’ll be angry, then sad; disappointed and finally resigned to picking up the pieces. I just can’t believe we did it. Yes- for all of you out there who don’t know; it turns out that 52% of my country decided that we’d be better off without the EU, and so we’re packing up and leaving. Needless to say, I was not part of this fractional majority. And I feel, given the large number of visitors I have “from the continent” that:

I owe you all an apology on Britain’s behalf.

I’m sorry Europe, for those that think we’re just “too full” to keep our borders open.

Engineering is a career that really drives home how much of an advantage the free movement of people across a large space can be. I’ve been lucky enough to be in teams where I’ve been the token english guy. That’s pretty remarkable- the ability to assemble a team of highly qualified engineers from a huge pool (especially with our local skills shortage). It also shouldn’t be taken for granted how amazing it is that they all wanted to work here- I wonder if that’s still true today; I hope so. Yes, England has struggling infrastructure; but where do you think we’ll find the labour, money and skills to improve it?

I’m sorry Europe, for those that think your attempts to improve health, safety and welfare in our nation was just ‘nannying’.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard someone defend BIM’s lukewarm effects on “everyone not doing it properly”. However that’s nothing to how important it is that everyone implements a base level of health, safety and welfare. The EU’s attempts to bring us all up to baseline were fantastic; and while I can only hope we won’t drop all of it- it’s fair to say that there’s going to be some temptation to start increasing working hours, and interfering with our regulations. Yes taking CDM all the way down to household level is expensive, but then; are you saying you’d rather just expose all those one man businesses to asbestos so they can remain competitive?

I’m sorry Europe, for those that saw your efforts to define a minimum common specification of products as interferingly onerous.

Being able to require a product to a standard specification, and trust that it’ll meet it, is amazing; it creates a commodity market where the challenge is either to make the minimum conforming product cheapest, or to innovate your product to something better that justifies the price. However it’s not just products- the EU’s Eurocodes gave us the opportunity to learn a standard set of codes and design anywhere in the continent. Yes, sometimes they were a bit heavy handed or slow to adapt- but any large system always is; and isn’t it better that we all do it.


We’ve left now; and I can only hope that we recover and make the best of this brave new world we’re creating (for better, or for worse). However, for me, it’s with a heavy heart that we set out on this journey. So-

Thank you the European Union. There’s no doubt you made a positive contribution to civil engineering.

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  1. Martin Spiers

    We haven’t left yet. Looks like Cameron will leave it to his successor to start the process of withdrawal, and that might take up to two years.

  2. Alan Carter

    Seconded wholeheartedly from a fellow engineer who can’t quite believe what this country has done.

  3. We have to remember that we are only leaving the EU and not Europe, which will always be there. The ‘remain’ or ‘out’ arguments were at best confused and unhelpful and people voted accordingly. Now we proceed with caution and make the best of it. Challenges lie ahead but it certainly (whatever happens, if anything !) is not the end of the world.

  4. As an architect and developer I feel exactly the same and can’t quite believe the parochial attitudes of so many of my fellow countrymen.

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