Wilton Park was pleased to help facilitate a discussion on Brexit in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London last week. The event was organised by Bridge International Dialogue (Bridge ID), a forum created by alumni of the Wilton Park British German Forum (BGF). Bridge ID’s aim is to create a place for young people to debate issues that transcend borders and cultures in order to foster mutual understanding. Working in conjunction with the Northern Europe and Germany Team at the FCO, this informal evening discussion brought together previous participants from the annual Jung Königswinter Conference and BGF amongst others, with the majority hailing from the UK and Germany.
The evening began with an overview of the UK’s relationship with the EU, before assessing the future opportunities and pitfalls presented by Brexit.
Key themes that surfaced included the indecision and uncertainties that may come with Brexit in both the short and long term, for example the difficulty of addressing the regional divisions in the UK that were exposed by the referendum result. Participants also looked beyond the UK and Europe, by taking into consideration the recent US election results, and what the prospect of an increasingly inward looking US and Europe could mean for rest of the world.
Opportunities presented by Brexit were also thoroughly discussed. For the UK, the shock of the Brexit vote could provide a basis for change and a way to build coalitions between people with differing viewpoints. In addition, the mutual economic dependence between the UK and EU was cited as a reason to be optimistic about the relationship between the two going into the future. As for Germany and the rest of the EU, Brexit may provide encouragement for EU reform.
Participants stressed the importance of the UK-Germany relationship post-Brexit, and it was agreed that more effort will be needed to sustain the bilateral partnership without the framework of the EU.
Simon Thomson, Chairman of Bridge ID, introduced the session and Robin Hart, Wilton Park facilitated. Wilton Park looks forward to supporting Bridge ID organise future discussions including BGF alumni.