United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Last updated in April 2017

Political Relations

Germany and the United Kingdom enjoy close and wide-ranging relations based on mutual trust. Both countries play an active role in the European Union (of which the UK is still a member), in NATO, the United Nations, the G7, the G20 and other international bodies. Like Germany, the United Kingdom is actively engaged in international climate protection.

The close political cooperation between the two countries is reflected in the frequent contacts between the two heads of government as well as between British and German ministers and members of parliament. It is also supported by the political foundations with offices in London (the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung). The annual Königswinter Conferences, instituted in 1950, are a key forum for political dialogue between Germany and the United Kingdom. The last conference took place in Germany at Schloss Neuhardenberg in late March 2017. In terms of security policy, Germany has, since late 2015, been regarded as a strategic bilateral partner of the United Kingdom, along with the United States and France. The upcoming negotiations on the United Kingdom’s exit from and future relationship with the European Union as well as its desire to compensate for its leaving the EU through closer relations with Germany will be the focus of bilateral talks in the coming years.

Königswinter Conferences

Königswinter Conference Summary 2016 (PDF, 249 KB)

Economic relations

The United Kingdom and Germany are important partners for one another, in terms of both trade and investment. Germany is the United Kingdom’s most important goods trading partner, ahead of the United States. The United Kingdom ranks fifth among Germany’s trading partners but is its third most important export market. Germany traditionally records a surplus in bilateral trade, with German exports worth EUR 86 billion and German imports EUR 36 billion in 2016. Taking into account services, which are of greater importance for the UK’s foreign trade, the United Kingdom ranks third among Germany’s principal trading partners, while Germany takes second place among the UK’s trading partners, after the United States.

There are more than 2,500 German companies with branches in the United Kingdom, employing a total of around 420,000 workers. This means that German company branches employ more than one per cent of the UK’s total workforce. Conversely, some 3,000 British companies are active in Germany. Direct and indirect German investment in the UK (including Siemens, Bosch, BMW, RWE, E.ON, Uniper, Deutsche Telekom, Deutsche Post, Linde and HeidelbergCement) stood at around EUR 121 billion in 2014, while direct and indirect British investment in Germany (e.g. BP, Shell, GKN, Terra Firma and Rolls Royce) was worth EUR 49 billion.

Cultural Relations

Bilateral cultural relations between Germany and the United Kingdom are lively and intensive, being based on public, private and civil society contacts and activities.

In this context it is worth mentioning the German directors of major British cultural institutions – Martin Roth at the Victoria and Albert Museum until autumn 2016; Hartwig Fischer at the British Museum since 2016; and Stefan Kalmár at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) since November 2016 – and British cultural actors in Germany, especially Sir Simon Rattle with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Neil MacGregor at the Humboldt-Forum.

In the area of youth exchange, the only bilateral institution that is active between Germany and the United Kingdom is UK-German Connection. It has established itself as a key bilateral coordination agency for all questions relating to school and youth exchanges between the two countries. The bilateral government initiative was launched in 2005 by former Federal President Köhler and Queen Elizabeth II to promote contacts and mutual understanding between young people in Germany and the United Kingdom. Germany is the first and only European country with which the United Kingdom has set up a youth exchange office.

UK-German Connection

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