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With Brexit an accomplished fact and ongoing negotiations over future relations between the UK and the EU reportedly hanging perilously in the balance, a series of questions concerning the future of Britain’s European policy and the nation’s wider geopolitical strategy arise

The Prime Minister has repeatedly stressed the UK’s will for continued partnership and friendship with its European neighbours. It is obvious, however, that should the European Union ever experience an even limited federalisation of an ‘inner core’ of member states, for example through a tightly integrated geopolitical cooperation of France and Germany as prepared in the Treaty of Aachen signed last year, it could become an even more formidable international competitor than it already is at the present moment. 

Influencing the course and extent of European integration in the interest of British competitiveness is an extremely complex task that will require supreme statesmanship, keen understanding of continental affairs and skilful diplomatic tact, from any British government. It will also require the cooperation of a reliable partner on the continent, which will be able to present British concerns in Brussels and take the UK’s sovereign interests into active consideration. This European partner should be Germany. 

Historically, Britain’s view on Germany has always vacillated between admiration and distrust, warm friendship and bitter hostility, alternating phases of war and peace, conflict and reconciliation. While the memory of the Second World War looms large in British public memory, Germany and the United Kingdom are today connected by liberal-democratic and humanitarian values; the cooperation in international organisations, such as NATO, UN, OECD, WHO; and diverse mutual interests, ranging from frictionless trade and the defence of international law to the combatting of existential threats to human life such as the current Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, the fight against international terrorism and the resolute struggle against transnational far right extremism. 

Germany is the nation’s second largest trading partner and an important market for British businesses, especially in the vital field of digitising key sectors of German economy, which has been declared a national priority by the Chancellery. British businesses engaged in software development and artificial intelligence research could and should profit from this national agenda by combining digital expertise developed in London, Oxford and Cambridge with Germany’s advanced technological skills and deep know-how in such critical areas of innovation as automation, medicine, biochemistry, transportation, robotics, clean energy and heavy industry. 

This could, for example, be achieved through the creation of Anglo-German tech clusters, favourable visa arrangements for entrepreneurs and businessmen, as well as regular exchanges between German and British start-up communities, investors and developers. At the moment, Germany is in the middle of a complex shifting of international priorities, in which it seeks to establish new security arrangements and alliances in the face of an American retreat from the global stage, a resurgent China and a geopolitically ambitious Russian Federation on NATO’s Eastern flank. 

In the EU, meanwhile, Germany will hold the presidency of the European Council in the second half of this year and will therefore be able to decisively shape Brexit negotiations and serve as a vital British ally on the continent, whose support will be critical in maintaining favourable cross-border trading conditions. 

On the issue of Brexit, Merkel has shown herself pragmatically appreciative of British concerns and has repeatedly sought to soften the blows of a potential no-deal scenario, which could be catastrophic for German industry, while the various candidates for the upcoming December elections for chairman of the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU), have generally shown themselves sympathetic to the UK’s position. 

Thus, the party’s conservative darling Friedrich Merz, who is the Brexit representative in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (‘NRW’) has expressed his concern for the potential negative economic ramifications of a no-deal scenario, while his contender, NRW’s Prime Minister Armin Laschet has personally thanked the British government for its support in the creation of his state after the Second World War and affirmed his enduring commitment to Anglo-German friendship. 

Similarly, candidate Norbert Röttgen, the chair of Bundestag Foreign Affair Committee, and MP Tom Tugenthat have called for a friendship treaty between the UK and Germany post Brexit. On the level of the Länder (federal states), Bavaria’s popular conservative Prime Minister Markus Söder has already announced the opening of a dedicated Bavarian diplomatic representation in London in 2020, which will become an important additional communicative hub for the deepening of Anglo-German relations next to the existing German embassy in Belgrave Square.

The UK, on the other hand, could strengthen Germany’s position in the UN security council and serve as an important conduit between the EU and an increasingly isolationist and distrustful US. In the field of military cooperation and international security, the UK and Germany could also forge closer bilateral ties through intelligence-sharing agreements, as well as through the establishment of an Anglo-German Brigade (similar to the already existing Franco-German Brigade) to be deployed in NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltic states.   

A close Anglo-German alliance will not only be beneficial to both nations, as well as European welfare and security, but will also allow Britain to pursue its geopolitical ambitions without nurturing its historic fears about the rise of a hostile hegemonic power on the continent and assert a more pronounced global role with the support of a strong, friendly partner in the EU that shares its values, ideals and interests. 

To achieve this ambition, the UK will have to cultivate not only high-level contacts between Downing Street and the Chancellery in Berlin, but also crucially deepen relations with the government of the Länder, such as Bavaria, Saxony and North-Rhine Westphalia, whose regional economies will be the key to a successful Anglo-German relationship post Brexit. 

Carlo is currently undertaking work experience at Bright Blue. Views expressed in this article are those of the author, not necessarily those of Bright Blue. [Image: Number 10]