Last updated in December 2017
Germany and the United Kingdom enjoy close and wide-ranging relations based on mutual trust. Both countries are members of the European Union, 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 United Kingdom seeks close bilateral cooperation with Germany after its exit from the EU.
The close relations between the two countries are reflected in the frequent contacts between the two countries’ Heads of State and Government as well as between British and German Ministers and Members of Parliament – as demonstrated by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s visit to Queen Elizabeth II on 28 November 2017. Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, visited Berlin, Hamburg and Heidelberg with his family in summer 2017. Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel last travelled to London in November 2017 for bilateral talks. The relations are also supported by the German political foundations with offices in London (the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung 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 next conference will be held in Cambridge in mid-April 2018. 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 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 to the United Kingdom worth 86 billion euros and German imports from the United Kingdom 36 billion euros 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 2500 German companies with branches in the United Kingdom, employing a total of around 420,000 workers. This means that German companies in the United Kingdom employ more than one percent of the United Kingdom’s total workforce. Conversely, some 3000 British companies are active in Germany. Direct and indirect German investment in the United Kingdom stood at more than 121 billion euros in 2015, while direct and indirect British investment in Germany (e.g. BP, Shell, GKN, Terra Firma and Rolls Royce) was worth 49 billion euros.
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 until autumn 2017 and Neil MacGregor at the Humboldt-Forum.
Intensifying youth exchange between Germany and the United Kingdom is a priority for both countries. UK-German Connection has established itself as a key bilateral coordination agency for all questions relating to youth and school exchange between the two countries. The bilateral government initiative was launched by then Federal President Horst Köhler and Queen Elizabeth II to promote contacts and mutual understanding between young people in Germany and the United Kingdom. On the occasion of the visit by Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, to Berlin in summer 2017, the German Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, and the UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, issued a joint declaration on expanding British-German youth and school exchange, both structurally and in terms of funding. Germany is the first and only European country with which the United Kingdom has set up a youth exchange office.
This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.