Small States and Institutional Change: the Lesson of Brexit

johny-vino-Ydpw_o7RKio-unsplashTomáš Weiss, Head of Department of European Studies and Jean Monnet Chair in EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies at the Institute of International Studies, Charles University, Prague, argues that institutionalisation can empower small states. He notes their dependence on institutions can also make them vulnerable to institutional change, this is exemplified through the case of Czechia in the EU.

This blog is part of our project on ‘Small States in the EU’ with the Scottish Centre on European Relations. 

Small states belong to the wealthiest and most developed countries in the world. Even when we disregard oil-dependent autocracies, the top ranks will be taken by small states, such as Luxembourg, Singapore and Ireland. To some extent, this success is the result of well-designed policies and strategies. It can also be dependent on favourable external factors and luck, such as geographical location, language spoken in the country, prosperous neighbours. A crucial factor in small states’ success, however, is international institutions.

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Scotland’s European Choices as UK Exits the EU


flags_scotland_ukAs some claim that the elections results put an end to the Brexit debate, Kirsty Hughes argues that the independence debate is not going away and re-joining the EU will be core to the discussions. 

In just two weeks, the UK will leave the EU – a huge damaging folly, irreversible in the next few years. And, as Boris Johnson predictably rejects the Scottish government’s request for a second independence referendum, the independence debate is set to intensify.

But how will the UK’s hard Brexit path impact on Scotland’s future European choices, if Scotland does sooner or later choose independence?

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Doctors and nurses can have an influence on Brexit to help protect the NHS

martin-brosy-758535-unsplashChristina Pagel demonstrates that NHS staff are more trusted than other voices on Brexit at the moment. For her, if nurses and doctors believe that the NHS will get worse after Brexit, they should spread this message—it could change minds.

For someone working in the NHS, it can feel as if all you can do is watch the disaster of Brexit unfold, and that none of it lies within your control.

But recent data from a large YouGov survey carried out on behalf of the People’s Vote Campaign suggests that your voice does matter.

The survey data suggest that people who are concerned about the impact of Brexit on the NHS are more likely to want to vote remain in any future referendum. At the same time, surveys show that doctors and nurses are trusted by the general public far more than any of the other voices currently speaking about Brexit. So the voices of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals do matter.

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Would introducing ID cards prevent a stalemate in a new referendum?  

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Polls show that a so-called People’s Vote might leave the UK split down the middle. UCL’s Tessa Buchanan looks at whether majority support for ID cards could help to break any potential stalemate. Are they the “have-cake-and-eat-it” solution as one think tank suggests? 

People rarely change their minds once they are made up and myth-busting doesn’t work. This was the message that struck home from an event where academics from ‘The UK in a Changing Europe’ revealed the latest polling data on how Brexit is perceived by the UK public.

Guess what. Those who believed in the £350m a week figure in 2016 still largely believe it; the majority still over-estimate how many EU migrants live in the UK; and many still link EU immigration with crime, pressure on the NHS and lower wages. Both Remainers and Leavers credit beliefs that tally with their own versions of the truth, which helps to explain why there has been relatively little change in support for Brexit in the last two years.

So if calls are mounting for a People’s Vote, what would prevent any new referendum being a re-run of 2016?

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How Come Such A Weak Deal?

mayAlbert Weale applies elementary principle of bargaining theory to demonstrate that the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration currently on the table are the best deal possible for the UK government given its own red lines and its starting-point. 

The withdrawal agreement and declaration on a future relationship are regarded by both sides of the Brexit debate as a bad deal for the UK.  For Brexiteers, it leaves the country as a rule-taking ‘vassal state’ on single market rules, requires payments into the EU budget during the transition period, and has no freedom to implement free trade agreements with other countries until the end of the back-stop.  For Remainers it will lead to the UK being worse off than it would be in the EU or in a Norway type arrangement, quite apart from any damage to the UK’s reputation.  The temptation is to put this down to Mrs May’s poor negotiating skills.  However, given her initial red lines, the outcome is quite positive.  The UK is outside the jurisdiction of the ECJ, it has its own immigration policy and has continued customs arrangements, the last of which is far from being an EU plot to keep the UK as a vassal state, but is instead a concession to UK cherry-picking.

Still, it is not good to be a rule-taker, whilst paying into the budget, and with so little protection for UK services.  More importantly, it leaves the UK weak in negotiating the terms of the future arrangements given the vetoes that EU might exercise by way of leverage.  So, how did a UK government get to this position?  Some elementary principles of bargaining theory provide an answer.

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