Tuesday 19 June 2018

Brexit fudge reminds us that modern life relies on invisible infrastructures

The chances of a no-deal Brexit have lessened thanks to last Friday's EU-UK deal, but this threat has not gone away, writes Dan O'Brien

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Dan O'Brien

Dan O'Brien

Road, railways, reservoirs and pylons are in plain sight. The hard infrastructure of the modern world is visible to all. The soft infrastructure is invisible to most. Laws, regulations and treaties underpin how countries and the world work.

They are technical, legalistic (by definition), detailed and lengthy. They are the "software" that makes societies run smoothly. Without them, anarchy would replace order. But, like the software that makes your mobile phone work, only small numbers of people (usually quite nerdy types) understand how each strand of invisible infrastructure is designed and operated. Nobody understands them all.

How countries interact with each other in an increasingly internationalised world is governed by invisible infrastructure (most people, for instance, had never heard of "custom unions" until recently, even though Europe's version affects everyone who inhabits the continent in profound ways). It is not something that anyone can quickly comprehend, owing to its inherent complexity.

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