Sir Emyr Jones Parry on Brexit and the ‘special relationship’

Tuesday 14 February 2017

Given the political upheavals of the past year or so, there was plenty of material up for discussion when The Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL) hosted Sir Emyr Jones Parry, a retired diplomat with experience in Europe, NATO and the UN.

Invited to GSAL by the school’s Model United Nations (MUN) Society, Sir Emyr addressed an audience of pupils in Years 10 to 13 from St Mary’s Menston and Mount St Mary’s Catholic schools as well as GSAL.

After a brief introduction, Sir Emyr opened the session up to questions from the floor, with the hot topics unsurprisingly relating to Brexit and the new US administration under Donald Trump.

When asked about the UK’s future relationship with Europe, Sir Emyr said: “Brexit is incredibly bad news, there are so many things to be untangled and I don’t see scope for optimism. You can do so much better in this world if you work with others, and we have worked successfully with the 27 other nations. How do we maintain the economic advantage when we won’t accept any of the rules? It could be very serious for your generation.”

There were questions on the ‘special relationship’ and its prospects following the recent visit of Theresa May to the White House. Sir Emyr said: “I’m not sure the special relationship really existed – other countries are more important to the US. The Americans are very hard-headed and we’re just a convenient special partner.

“However Theresa May’s challenge was to get on terms with someone she’d never met in just five hours, and leave with a relationship they could work with in the future. There are lots of politicians you may not like but they are in power and you have to work with them.”

When asked how can we best effect change, Sir Emyr responded: “Try to go out and make a difference. Remember that the rights we enjoy in this country are hard won and come with responsibilities, they must be safeguarded for generations to come.”

Sir Emyr Jones Parry joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 1973 after graduating with a physics degree.  As well as periods working at the FCO in London, he held posts in Ottawa, Brussels and Madrid. His last postings were as permanent representative first to NATO and then to the UN Security Council in New York.

(L-R) GSAL U6 students Harin Wijayathunga and Antony Attia with Sir Emyr Jones Parry

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