On 5 January, Foreign Minister Baerbock is travelling to London, where she will meet her British counterpart James Cleverly for the Strategic Dialogue between the two countries. The Dialogue is taking place for the first time today and in future will provide an opportunity for an intensive bilateral exchange each year. While bilateral talks between Ministers normally last about one hour, the Foreign Minister and her counterpart will talk for almost four hours today within this new framework and will discuss the entire spectrum of foreign policy issues from Afghanistan to Iran, and from work within the NATO Alliance to support for Ukraine. All bilateral issues are also on the agenda.
Just like in Ireland last December: Brexit is also a main issue in London
The impact of Brexit will be one of the main issues during the visit to London, as it was during the visit to Ireland last December. In 1998, the Good Friday Agreement brought peace to Northern Ireland after over 30 years of violent conflict. It is crucial to ensure that nothing is done to jeopardise this peace.
Foreign Minister Baerbock made the following comments on this before her departure:
To this day, the Achilles heel of our relations, as the EU, with the United Kingdom is the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol. It is key that we find a responsible and pragmatic solution for Northern Ireland, on the basis of existing agreements. It is the only way we will realise the great potential of our partnership. At the same time, as we engage in our new relationship, we are under an obligation to get the very best results for those who are directly affected. While we cannot turn back the clock, we can decide to step forward into a good common future.
Preserving practical achievements for people in the wake of Brexit
It is also important for the common future of the two countries to strengthen contacts between people wherever Brexit has made them more difficult. One example is youth exchange, which enables many young people to have memorable encounters and thus forms the basis for German-British friendship in future. Furthermore, the two countries plan to revive the joint cultural commission and to strengthen the almost 500 town twinning arrangements between German and British communities. Foreign Minister Baerbock stressed:
My visit to London is about jointly looking to the future after Brexit. For this, we need to build new bridges in the areas of youth exchange and worker mobility, as well as for university students and research – in short, in areas where people come together.