How will our exit from the EU affect our twinning?

Saturday, 19th January 2019

WITH our exit from the EU (we refuse to overly use the ‘B-word’) just around the corner, we were keen to see how this may affect Tamworth’s twinning with Bad Laasphe in Germany.

With far-sightedness, Harald Hagedorn, chairman of ‘Freundeskreis Städtepartnerschaft Bad Laasphe – Tamworth’ (Bad Laasphe Twinning Association), reacted to the current political situation in Great Britain and spoke to Tamworth Informed.

In anticipation of an unregulated Brexit, which would have a significant impact on the exchange of students with Wilnecote High School, Harald Hagedorn says that the Twinning Association has been in contact with representatives of the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Task Force on article 50, the British Government and representatives of the opposition.

As Hagedorn had earlier wrote for a guest contribution in the 2018 ‘Annual of International Partnerships’, “the possible scenarios of entry requirements for EU citizens into the UK and vice versa, and their implications for the twinnings between Continental European and British communities post-Brexit were played down”

Meanwhile, the European Commission gave UK citizens the right to travel to EU and Schengen countries for up to 90 days without a visa requirement. This also applies explicitly in the case of an unregulated withdrawal of the UK from the EU, subject to a reciprocal settlement on the British side. Such a regulation was already promised by the Home Office, but the appropriate legal basis has not yet been adopted.

“At the present time, we assume that the corresponding legal basis will be created before 29th March 2019, thus avoiding negative implications for twinning.” Hagedorn writes.

So everything will be perfectly fine? Not really, because as Hagedorn continues: “Impairment for the twinning might be expected mainly if there would be an unregulated exit. This would be driven primarily by economic and monetary developments within the UK. In the event of rising inflation (6,5%)*, and at the same time devaluation of the GBP (of up to 25%)* and lower disposable incomes it would be increasingly expensive for our partners [from Tamworth] to actively participate in the exchange.”

Will there still be this picture of a functioning town twinning in Bad Laasphe in the future, when the United Kingdom - regulated or unregulated - leaves the EU? Photo Credit: Holger Weber/Siegener Zeitung

Will there still be this picture of a functioning town twinning in Bad Laasphe in the future, when the UK  leaves the EU? Photo Credit: Holger Weber/Siegener Zeitung

This is especially true for people whose financial situation is already a limitation; students, apprentices, lower income earners and retirees as an example. As such, there would be a risk that the basis for a successful and ever-evolving twinning would be limited, which might have long-term negative effects, as the exchange would probably not take place at the current high level.

The negative consequences of a regulated UK exit from the EU are likely to be largely mitigated, but not completely absorbed, in terms of visits to English guests.

Furhter to this, Hagedorn says that the complex situation of the partnership between the Freiwillige Feuerwehr Bad Laasphe (volunteer fire department Bad Laasphe) and the Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service is difficult. He questions whether, due to divergent legal requirements, joint exercises and training by the fire brigades can be carried.

Also due to possible changes in legal frameworks, the plans for an exchange of employees of local [German] and UK companies has been temporarily suspended until the relevant provisions are met.

“We do not fear direct Brexit effects for the Twinning Associations, or the twinning in generall – assuming a regulated withdrawal from the EU – an assessment that is also shared by our English partners in Tamworth” – and in case of Hard Brexit? “The twinning is stable, well established and resilient, we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Twinning in 2020 and we shall celebrate the 50th ten years later in style: it isn’t about politics, it’s about people meeting people, it’s about making friends and that won´t change”

*worst case, according to “Brexit Assesment of the BoE, November 28th, 2018