CARGO SHIPS are seen as they sail across the English Channel from Dover in Britain, with the French coast on the horizon..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Brits are famous for their obsession with talking about the weather. Last Thursday, as the United Kingdom suffered a heavy self-inflicted financial wound, a heavy cloud of uncertainty about the future turned to deep mist. There is a sense that the sky is falling, and in the gloom, the Brits are desperately searching for light at the end of the Channel Tunnel.
The economic storm clouds are gathering. Israel should be saddened to see an economic ally needlessly weakened. But Israel itself is unlikely to suffer.
The financial sector in the City of London voted solidly to remain in Europe. It is the English economy’s beating heart and is supported by service providers, including a judicial system which is the envy of the world. It is no coincidence that English law is the choice for more than 40 percent of international contracts or that the largest foreign law firm in Israel is English. The decision by the UK to leave the EU may eventually undermine these strengths.
Bayer, a German Company, is seeking to purchase Monsanto for $62 billion. The deal will probably take place in New York or London. But political pressure might one day move such a deal to Frankfurt and impose German law. The German financial and legal markets would thereby increase their skills and reputation. The expertise which is presently at the center of England’s power would start to drift away to a new center of gravity.
London has huge strengths: it has 500,000 people in the banking/finance industry alone; it has the attractions of one of the world’s great capitals. English is established as the international language of commerce. That there could be effective competition in Europe was once unthinkable. Since last Thursday it is not.
The EU and the UK will feel bruised by Britain’s decision, and will seek to strengthen friendships where they can be found. Thus both Europe and England will seek to strengthen their embrace of Israel on a commercial level – even though their political attacks will doubtless continue. If England’s economy slowly contracts, and if the country loses Scotland (likely) and Ireland (possible), English Jews will perhaps come to Israel in greater numbers. But there will be no stampede for the exit.
When the dust settles, the actual changes will be slow and the trend almost imperceptible.
But the apocryphal 1930s headline “Fog in Channel – Europe cut off” will be rewritten; it is England which, much diminished, will now be cut off.
The author is the founder and senior partner of Asserson Law Offices, Israel’s largest foreign law firm, providing English Law advice from its offices in Tel Aviv.