This week sees MPs (well those who can be bothered to turn up on a Friday) debate the idea of the UK moving to “Berlin Time”. Tory MP Rebecca Harris will be introducing a private members bill which is aimed at moving the UK permanently one hour ahead i.e. on the same time zone as most of continental Europe. This could, according to each side of the argument, either provide the UK, particularly the south east, with lighter, safer more enjoyable evenings, or plunge Scotland and all points west into a spiral of gloom and depression as mornings stay darker for longer.
Berlin of course is the capital city of the country which is currently Europe’s strongest economy. News emerged last week that German economic confidence has reached the highest levels since records began post unification in 1990. Indeed Germany’s economics minister Rainer Bruederle has gone on record as saying that “full employment will soon be possible”. This is a remarkable turnaround for an economy where unemployment has been stubbornly high for much of the past decade, and that fell off the end of a cliff at the end of 2008. Much of Germany’s current economic success is attributed to strong export performance, although domestic demand has also played its part.
The German economy has always run on a strange mixture of entrepreneurship and regulation. The typically family run “mittelstand” companies, enterprising SME businesses which focus on innovative and exportable products based on a strong commitment to research and development and long term planning, sit alongside some of the most fearsome employment protection systems in the world. And yet at the moment it seems to be working extremely well.
The situation in Germany is not perfect, and clouds exist in terms of the euro crises, public spending cuts and domestic banking risks. It would also help if they were to borrow and spend more as consumers. However, as the UK looks to rebalance itself as an economy which is weighted towards export and investment, rather that the consumption and borrowing model that we have grown used to, marrying Germany’s longer term approach to developing and making high value products that people want with the UK’s strengths of flexibility and dynamism looks like a winning combination.
Something to consider maybe as we prepare for our usual pre Christmas splurge prior to embarking on an uncertain 2011? We don’t have to be on the same time zone…..