Why I’m reviving the spirit of the Hanseatic League across Northern Europe

Why I’m reviving the spirit of the Hanseatic League across Northern Europe

Remainers often accuse we Brexiteers of looking through rose-tinted spectacles at a glorious past that never existed. But as an historian, I know that we can learn much from the past, and that we ignore it at our peril.

As Britain moves out of the European Union the trading and political relationships of northern Europe are going to undergo profound change. If businesses in our various countries are going to continue to thrive then we need to be ready for those changes, and be prepared to ride the wave.

That is why I and colleagues from Denmark, Germany and elsewhere have set up Projekt Hansa. It is proving to be one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing groups in the European Parliament, reaching out across Northern Europe from Rostock to Reykjavik.

We aim to build business, cultural and personal links across the great swathe of northern nations which brew beer, fry cod and know the values of free markets. And, unusually for Brussels, we are reaching out beyond the confines of the EU to those nations – such as Norway or Iceland – that stand outside the EU.

We take our inspiration and our name from the medieval Hanseatic League that dominated trade across the Baltic and North Seas in medieval times. The Hansa could not have been more different from the European Union if it had tried. It was composed of merchants, guilds and towns that came together voluntarily to co-operate on trade when it suited them to do so. It operated independently of the emperors, kings and archdukes who ostensibly ruled Europe. While rulers fought dynastic wars, the Hanseatic League got on with the business of increasing trade, making money and boosting prosperity.

At Projekt Hansa we are seeking to put businesses in touch with each other, and to give them the tools that they need to make a success of exporting. We are organising Business Hubs where business owners can meet to learn from each other, building a network to help boost trade and prosperity for us all. Our first such event was held in Nottingham last week.

But there is more to Projekt Hansa than that. We are also seeking to increase understanding of each others’ cultures. The cultural ties that bind the nations of Northern Europe are very real. Our art, architecture and foods vary, but there is more in common than there are differences. We want to encourage a greater understanding and appreciation of northern arts and culture.

The more we know of each other and the more we travel to each other’s countries the greater will be the understanding. That is good in itself, but it also has a practical purpose. It is human nature to favour the familiar. That is true in business as anywhere else. It is easier to trade with a company from a country that you know something about. And since Northern Europe shares so much in common, doing business is easier. That will remain as true after Brexit as before.

At Projekt Hansa we are looking to help build a dynamic, prosperous and peaceful future for Northern Europe. In our past we can find inspiration for our future.

You can find Projekt Hansa on Twitter as @HansaProjekt and online at www.ProjektHansa.org