On 23 June, the people of the United Kingdom voted in a referendum to leave the European Union. Our friends and colleagues in Georgia have asked what the referendum results might mean for them.
We should be clear. The UK will continue to stand by Georgia and the Georgian people. We remain committed to Georgia as a valuable international security partner and regional democratic role model. The UK supports you as you reform and we will continue to provide tangible assistance to implement those reforms.
This year we plan to spend around £4m supporting Georgia through our Good Governance Fund, including funding the secretariat for Georgia’s Investors’ Council. This Autumn, we will bring UK and Georgian policy makers together in the next round of the Wardrop Dialogue, named after Oliver Wardrop, the UK’s first Commissioner to the Transcaucasus.
Those in Georgia who are worried that their jobs or businesses may be affected by the referendum should be reassured that the UK economy is fundamentally strong, and that British interest in trading with and investing in Georgia is undiminished.
The UK is the third biggest foreign investor in Georgia, creating thousands of jobs. We are a great trading nation and our science, arts, engineering and creativity are respected the world over. The UK Chancellor has been categorical this week that the British economy remains ‘open for business’.
For those who are thinking of travelling to the UK, perhaps to study, we continue to welcome you. Last year thousands of Georgians visited the UK. Twelve of them were on British Government funded Chevening Scholarships. Meanwhile, here in Georgia, over 70,000 people took part in the British Council’s programmes in the Arts, English, Higher Education and Society. Over half a million used the British Council’s digital services. We expect all that to continue.
We are strongly committed to supporting Georgia’s independence and territorial integrity. In 2015-16 we funded 34 projects worth over £3m under the Caucasus Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) focused on peace-building initiatives across the region.
The UK’s referendum last week was a giant democratic exercise – perhaps the biggest in our history. Over 33 million people from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar had their say. As Georgia looks ahead to its own parliamentary elections in October we continue to support you in your aspiration towards free and fair elections.
And we in the British Embassy look forward to continuing to work with you to build even stronger links between our two countries, holding fast to a vision of Britain that is respected abroad, tolerant at home and engaged in the world.