29 March 2017. Theresa May has triggered Article 50, setting the UK on its path out of the EU. Biosphere Expeditions is moving its HQ from the UK to Ireland to stay in.
On 24 June 2016, within a few hours of the UK’s Brexit vote, Biosphere Expeditions’ executive director Dr. Matthias Hammer, issued a statement announcing the move, saying that it “came down to a choice of visions of the kind of world we want to live in. Do we want to exist in a world where nationalistic interest, attitudes of ‘them and us’, suspicion and fear of the unknown – be it people or challenges – rule the day? History has told us where this leads. Or do we want to live in a world of collaboration, common visions, shared values, working towards a greater good, compassion and kindness? For us the answer was always obvious.”
There were numerous and varied reactions to the statement, with about 80% in favour of the move out of the UK and 20% against.
Now, nine months later, the move is well under way. “We have set up in Dublin, opened a bank account, registered with the authorities, etc.”, says Hammer. “Of course we will still maintain a presence in the UK, but over the course of 2017 we will gradually move all HQ functions over to Ireland. Our aim is to have the Euro as our base currency and conduct most operations from Ireland from 2018 onwards”.
“Our reasons for doing this remain the same”, continues Hammer. “In wildlife conservation especially, it is important to think beyond borders – which are human creations after all – and in terms of international cooperation. Our most successful projects are those where people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities work together towards a common goal and good. One where the driving forces are not profit or greed or protectionism or the fallacy of endless growth or the fear of the foreign, but collaboration, compassion, kindness, reciprocity and the realisation that we all share this beautiful planet, of which there is only the one. So we would like to stay part of this international project that is the EU, difficult and flawed and threatened as it may be at the moment. And, as Esteban González Pons showed us in an impassioned speech in favour of the EU recently, you have to stand for some things you believe in. Otherwise you fall down easily for everything.”
Hammer concludes that he “would like to assure our partners, supporters and friends that we are committed to our existing expeditions and partnerships and will work hard to keep disruption to a minimum. We will do the same for our participants and staff. Much will happen behind the scenes, but at the front end, changes should be relatively small and we will keep everyone fully informed about them over the next months and years, as Brexit sadly unfolds.”