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Brexit, Transatlantic Relations, and Russia: The Global Significance of a British Exit from the EU

September 30, 2016

On September 27, the World Affairs Council, with sponsorship from CWES/EUC, REECAS and CGS, hosted a panel discussion and teacher workshop on the impacts of the recent referendum. Titled “Brexit, Transatlantic Relations, and Russia: The Global Significance of a British Exit from the EU”, and hosted at Roosevelt High School, the event was open to the community and to local high school teachers.

The panel consisted of Robin Twyman, UK Consul of Business and Government Affairs in Seattle, Phil Shekleton, the Faculty Advisor for the Europe Track in the Certificate in International Studies in Business Program, and Jaqueline Miller, President and CEO of the World Affairs Council. Together, they discussed Brexit from a UK standpoint, a wider European Union standpoint, and the ways in which eastern Europe and Russia would be impacted by the departure of the UK from the EU. The panel discussions and questions were moderated by Ryan Hauke.

Robin Twyman

Robin Twyman discusses Britain’s global leadership. 

Twyman began by echoing the words of Theresa May and other UK government officials when he said “I want to ensure that you all know that when we talk about this vote, there is no going back. ‘Brexit’ means Brexit.” He also went on the emphasize that the right of the people to vote is critical to democracy, and for a government to doubt or argue that vote would inherently damage the relationship meant to emphasize service to its people. “However,” he continued, “the UK will remain strong… This process will be daunting. It will be difficult. But we will remain a key player in the global scheme. We will be big thinking; we will be innovative.”

Shekleton then spoke about the ways in which the remaining EU member states have a responsibility to be flexible in the negotiations. “There’s too much at stake for a poor outcome,” he said. “There needs to be a mutually beneficial deal that benefits all and doesn’t hurt the economic and social ties.” In spite of this, however, he argued that the EU has to remain as a unit of power, and not allow the UK to depart while still getting all the benefits of a member state. He drew comparisons to Norway, Switzerland, and even Canada, looking at the different trade relationships and access to the single market as his basis for comparing and contrasting relationship possibilities.

Jaqueline Miller

Jaqueline Miller discusses the relationship between Europe and Russia. 

Miller then considered Brexit in terms of Russia’s interests and involvement. Though she indicated that Russia remained largely silent around the vote, she suggested that Russia’s silence spoke. As a major trading partner, Russia certainly has an interest in Britain’s future—and as the subject of prolonged sanctions EU sanctions, Russia has apparent reason not to wish the EU well. Jackie asserted that a united Europe and strong EU is directly counter to Russian interests. The (slim) potentiality of a ‘Next-it’ would have profound implications for Russia’s ability to assert influence over Europe, and its attractiveness as an alternative bloc to EU membership.

The discussion proved there are still tensions and concerns around this vote, but also proved that partners across the globe are working together to create as smooth a transition as possible. There will, undoubtedly, be more workshops like this as negotiations continue in regards to the departure of the UK from the EU, so keep an eye on our events calendar for more!