Event Summary by Jessica Simonds, BA (Hons) MA, Education Assistant CTWAC
The BREXIT: A German Perspective event was held on September 27th at the Infinity Music Hall in Hartford, CT. The event featured the Consul General of Germany to New England, Dr. Ralf Horlemann who delivered the German perspective on the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. The event was attended by a number of delegates from across Connecticut’s business community, many members of the board of directors of the CTWAC, as well as students from Weaver High School and the Master’s School who are participating in our Model UN program.
Megan Torrey, the Executive Director of the Connecticut World Affairs Council opened the event by welcoming the delegates and introduced the students from Weaver High School who are representing Germany at the CTWAC Model United Nations Conference this December. We are so pleased the students got the opportunity to meet with the Consul-General prior to the event and have a chance to ask well thought and important questions that are sure to aid their preparation for the MUN. Megan then handed over to Peter Holland, who as the Chair of the German Sub-Committee of the International Business Council, highlighted the importance of German business in the state of Connecticut as well as the importance of understanding BREXIT’s potential impact on international business.
Jeff White, Partner & Chair of the Manufacturing Industry Group of Robinson and Cole LLP, then proceeded to welcome delegates and introduced Dr. Ralf Horlemann. Dr. Horlemann opened his speech by outlining the uncertainty surrounding BREXIT and that many questions that were to be asked may be unanswerable given the situation. He proceeded to explore key themes surrounding the impact of BREXIT on the rest of Europe. Most prominently was the question it has posed for the future of a European Identity, he suggested that the vote had “provoked soul searching within Europe,” and raised questions about where it is to head as both a concept and organization. He also addressed the uncertainty of the UK’s future in the European common market, he assured the German perspective that Britain would not be able to participate in the single market without respect for the four freedoms. The four freedoms are to be understood as the freedom of movement, people, goods, services and capital and are concepts that featured heavily in the debates leading to the vote in the UK. Dr. Horlemann also pointed out the difficulties the UK may face when trading with the rest of Europe as “rules of origin would put UK goods at a disadvantage” in regards to export tariffs and product quality. Dr. Horlemann concluded by reinforcing the importance of the European project by referring to the original rationale for its establishment as “putting an end to war on the European Continent” and the importance of it as a mechanism for maintaining peace.
The floor was then opened to delegates to ask their questions to Dr. Horlemann, and this resulted in a vibrant and inquisitive discussion. Many questions addressed the dynamics in the UK that lead to the BREXIT vote and questioned whether or not this has been evident in other EU member states. Dr. Horlemann recognized that there is a climate of skepticism surrounding the EU and the democratic nature of its institutions (in particular the European Commission as the executive branch of the EU), but he is confident Germany will maintain its position as an advocate for European integration and the security of member states within the union. Dr. Horlemann thanked the delegates for their attendance and handed the platform over to Se-Min Sohn, President of the Board of Directors at CTWAC. Mr. Sohn then thanked delegates for their attendance as well as the Consul General for his attendance and for offering the German perspective on BREXIT.