WSF2019 | BREAKOUT SESSION: A Tale of Two Britains: Brexitland v. Remainia
The panel discussion “A Tale of Two Britains: Brexitland v. Remainia – What Kind of Britain Would the World Face After Brexit?” was organized in cooperation with the Centre for International Relations (CSM), which was founded in 1996 and is one of the oldest think tanks in Poland. The panelists were: Dr. Julian Lewis – MP from the Conservative Party, Chair of the Defence Select Committee from the House of Commons of the UK; Prof. Dr. Julian Lindley-French – Senior Fellow at the Institute for Statecraft; Ms. Clare Moody – MEP from the Labour Party, UK; and Mr. Paul Taylor – Contributing Editor at POLITICO, Senior Fellow at Friends of Europe. The debate was moderated by Dr. Małgorzata Bonikowska – CSM President. The session took place on October 3rd, 2019 in Warsaw.
The discussion was divided into two sections: what is the situation in the United Kingdom today, and what will the United Kingdom look like tomorrow. To start the debate and give the audience an overview of the British perspective, Małgorzata Bonikowska asked the panelists about the impact of Brexit and its consequences for the UK.
According to Clare Moody, British politics has been focusing too much on Brexit itself, forsaking other important political issues such as the health service or the education system. The discussion delved into the deepening polarization of public opinion on the topics of Brexit and the European Union.
The Conservative party’s representative – Julian Lewis, reminded the audience that Euroscepticism is not equivalent to isolationism. He pointed out that even the strongest eurosceptics in the British Parliament were amongst the strongest supporters of NATO and of US involvement in the defense of Europe.
Paul Taylor began by presenting the changing perception of Great Britain among European countries. Europe used to look to the UK as a fount of democratic stability, pragmatism, compromise and common sense. Its image of the UK changed as a result of the shock of witnessing the virulence of the debate and the difficulty that institutions faced in coping with Brexit. He continued: “All of these things have raised questions about the UK Constitution which people hadn’t really thought about before, so I think there’s been a sense, also, in the very odd way., in which the UK conducted these negotiations throughout. The oddest thing is that we’re three weeks away from the latest deadline for Brexit, and nobody on this panel really has the slightest clue what’s going to happen.”
Julian Lindley-French reminded the audience that despite the chaos of Brexit, Britain is still a major power in Europe. The United Kingdom has spent five times what Poland has on defense, and its economy is more than five times larger. Moreover, Lindley-French does not see the EU as a driver of economic growth.