At a breakthrough event IWF members from all over Europe met at the British Embassy Paris to discuss the conundrum facing the UK today: Brexit.
The Embassy provided an elegant venue for this first foray into international debate. After welcomes by the Embassy’s Hermione Gough and Julie Goldstein, Chair, IWF UK, a cosmopolitan panel identified some of the difficulties coming down the track and some possible solutions.
Vicky Pryce, former joint head of the UK Government economic service, suggested that some Brexit enthusiasts had not fully calculated the cost of Brexit to the UK economy. She warned that far from Brexit cutting red tape, bureaucracy was likely to be every bit as heavy and already EU workers were leaving Britain - last year NHS applications from EU nurses fell by a massive 96 %. Also downbeat was the formidable French journalist Anne-Elisabeth Moutet. She warned of the sheer "vindictiveness" of people in Brussels and Paris towards the whole idea of Brexit, noting that French attitudes towards "perfidious Albion" dated back to Joan of Arc! On a more positive note, Louise Cossey, Brexit champion, KPMG France, stressed that many on both sides of the Channel wanted to continue working together and pointed to initiatives such as that between the Mayors of London and Paris. Cynthia Pine CBE, IWF UK member and Professor at Queen Mary, University of London, spoke about higher education and health, saying that instead of trying to change decisions, more effort must be made to find solutions so that programmes like the Erasmus scheme could continue. Above all, ensuring that EU citizens coming to work / study in Britain were not made to feel unwelcome.
The speakers stimulated a wide-ranging and often passionate debate continuing after lunch, joined by Oriel Petry, Director, UK
Trade and Investment at the Embassy. The ultimate theme of the day was how senior people in both private and public sectors
must find workable settlements in their own areas. They must either circumvent the politicians and/or ensure that their voices are heard much more loudly in government.
Special thanks to Sue Cameron, IWF UK member, writer and broadcaster, who moderated the event; Cynthia Pine CBE for creating and leading on this European initiative and also to Anne Duncan IWF UK member, based in Paris, for her help and guidance in organising and facilitating this event. We will be exploring opportunities to build upon this dialogue and increase our collective voice in shaping the way forward.