DEMOCRACY is having a “tough time” and an “awful lot” of business depends on how the world changes after Brexit, an expert on Anglo-American relations has said.

Bronwen Maddox, director of the Institute for Government and former foreign editor for The Times, spoke to local businesses about western democracy and the relationship between the UK and the US.

Her talk was the latest in the Mayflower 400 Speaker Series, sponsored by transatlantic law firm Womble Bond Dickinson at Southampton Harbour Hotel.

She examined the evolution of the “special relationship” between the US and UK, with the shared values of both countries moving them along similar lines.

Trade was a key factor in the journey of the Mayflower Pilgrims to a new life in 1620 – a voyage which will be commemorated in Southampton as part of the Mayflower 400 anniversary programme next year. The Pilgrims were seeking both religious independence and a better life economically.

Ms Maddox said: “The UK and US really stand for many of the same values of individual liberties, individual rights and the relationship that the individual has with his or her government and how written down and protected. The Mayflower 400 is such an interesting and resonant project. Many people find it a deeply inspiring story.

“Part of what is so fascinating is how far the countries have travelled since then. Our special relationship is a mixture of values, culture and mutual interest but it took hundreds of years to get to that point. One has to give credit to those ties. “

Wrapping up her keynote speech, she said: “Democracy is having a tough time and from this stance, the UK and US are very much on the same page. At the heart of British and US politics lies a big question: Can democracy solve its own problems, can you get a political leader who can put words to a vision of the future in which people can see a place for themselves and don’t feel on the losing side of some battle?

“These aren’t settled questions. There is a real question about where we go from here especially in the light of Brexit. An awful lot of trade and business will depend on the outcomes of this and it will undoubtedly change the UK’s relationship with the US.”

Jon Hales, head of the Southampton office at Womble Biond Dickinson, said: “It will be interesting to see the opportunities that the relationship between the UK and USA brings over the next six to twelve months depending on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

“There will be opportunities ahead for different sectors and that in this region the strong maritime and manufacturing sectors will doubtless be affected by the outcome of any Brexit deal. We know from our own experience of becoming a transatlantic firm that its key to consider developing global relationships now with an uncertain future ahead.”

The Mayflower 400 commemoration year starts this November. The official programme in 2020 will comprise over 400 events that will span four Nations – Britain, US, Netherlands and Wampanoag – and is anticipated to yield a £440m boost for business turnover across the UK Mayflower Compact destinations.