The United States of Pret

The pre-work morning ritual. We all have one. Strangely, if it’s well composed it can set the day up to be great. But, regardless of how you sink or swim later during the day, one thing is for sure, you will grab a morning coffee.

I work on New Oxford Street, precursor to the discerning shoppers’ paradise of Oxford Street. 1.5 miles of exotic shops enticing a range of punters to part with their cash. However, if you start this traverse on the corner of New Oxford Street and Bloomsbury Street, you’ll make eye-contact with Pret A Manger. I find myself in Pret before work most days where I partake in a little reading ritual.

It will come as little surprise to hear a range of strange, non-Anglo, accents whilst ordering. Even a hawkish glance at their name tags indicates that the people serving you are from the Continent. However, two things struck me. Firstly, the majority of the people working in Pret were European, mostly southern and eastern in origin. And secondly, they range in ages, from spritely 20-somethings to greying members of society (the over-50s).

Since the economic crash of 2008 and the ongoing Eurozone crisis, there has been a constant influx of migrants, mostly economic migrants, to the UK. It doesn’t matter where you are, there are people here from all over Europe learning English (just not from the west or north). Some of these, at least in my experiences, are highly educated in their home countries, but the one common denominator is their non-existent English proficiency. And, since the crash and crisis, those southern Europeans that could afford to move to have done so. They’re here improving their English and they’re taking shit jobs to do so, like the team in Pret. Is this necessary?

This is the part where things really do get interesting. For me, the Eurozone crisis is more than just Germany lunging at its weaker southern neighbours – the direct result of inefficiencies in the labour market. However, I see it as a concerted effort to do one thing: propel the lingua franca (English) as the official language of Europe. It’s hard to do things during times of peace and the time right now is anything but ordinary. The Noughties were obsessed with those new kids on the block, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). Of those, China has propelled forward at a pace that has, quite frankly, shocked everyone! China’s population represents approximately two-sevenths (a quarter) of the world’s human stock. That’s 1.3 billion consumers. That’s one hell of a market. Compare this to Europe: 743 million. China has twice the market size of Europe but more importantly, Europe is ruled by disparate nation states all vying and competing with each other. Europeanism is at an all time low, southern Europeans resent the bully occupying the centre (Germany) and the Brits are nowhere to be seen.

So what’s going on? Germany wants obedience and loyalty. It wants the corrupt, and morally ruinous southern Europeans to become more chaste, stoic, and conservative. It has attempted to use economic hard power to achieve this, through the use of various incendiary devices: loans with specific clauses (tranches), Protestant values, and even calling in the B-52 of global institutions, the IMF and it’s lauded Structural Adjustment programme, which has done nothing to assuage the mistrust southerners vent in the direction of the Reichstag (the centre of European policy making). However, where the Germans have failed miserably, the Brits have done rather quite well. By having weaker economies, and volumetrically smaller economies and markets, the southerners are in a bit of a pickle, globally. How do they tool up for the rigours of the 21st Century and starve off an attack by the roaring dragon? Simple. They come to Britain, intern, learn English, and go back home. This is nascent federalism. This is the grand strategy. Forcing institutions and currencies on an unwilling populace will fail but take a different approach and the United States of Europe, with the UK at its helm, becomes a reality.

Now, the next time you’re in Pret A Mange, it doesn’t matter which, try and see the big picture! We’ve all seen the “Great Britain” propaganda that is being broadcast as an emollient to Brexit, now you get to see the future of the EU! With 730 million customers on our doorstep, if we all speak one language that’s great for business and most importantly, it’s great at working together to stop the giant dragon taking over the world. And as the liberal order has seen over the past few months across the western world, to have another mishap, well, that would be more than embarrassing.

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