Brexit and its potential consequences for British foreign policy

wright_WPIn a new EI Working Paper titled ‘Brexit and the Re-Making of British Foreign Policy’, Nicholas Wright analyses the challenges Brexit will pose to British foreign policy-makers and institutions, the future of UK-EU relations, and the impact of Brexit on UK engagement with the multilateral system. The paper also shows how the UK government can mitigate the risk of a significant loss of international influence. In this blog entry, Dr Wright highlights the key findings of the paper.

Since the end of the Second World War, the UK has been a multilateral power par excellence, directly contributing to the construction and expansion of many of the most important institutions of international governance, and championing a rules-based international system. In the 2015 National Security Strategy, for example, the maintenance of this system was identified as a core British national interest, contributing to the UK’s capacity to ‘punch above its weight’ in international affairs.

However, although Brexit entails the UK’s departure from a major component of this system, the consequences for British foreign policy remain under-examined in public debates. A number of challenges need to be addressed.

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Fear Trumps Fact

Whitman_glassThe Brussels attacks have been used by both sides of the Brexit debate to claim that the UK is either more or less secure as a result of EU membership. Richard Whitman, Professor of Politics and Senior Fellow at The UK in a Changing Europe , argues that rhetoric has played a greater role for both sides than evidence-based claims.

The Brussels airport and Metro bombings were swiftly incorporated into the UK’s EU Referendum debate. A number of Brexit campaigners drew almost immediate conclusions from the bombings, arguing that they highlighted why the UK could better provide for its own security against terrorism outside, rather than inside, the European Union.

In the week following the bombings current and former members of the intelligence and security communities claimed that the EU did, or did not, play a contribution in the UK protecting itself from terrorism. The majority of the claims made on either side where rhetorical and with little evidence produced to substantiate the assertions that were being made. Continue reading

What effect might terrorist atrocities in Paris have on UK’s EU referendum?

ParisMatt Goodwin, Senior Fellow at The UK in a Changing Europe, examines the impact that terrorist attacks can have on the political landscape of those countries concerned. In this post, he examines the potential impact the recent attacks and security threats in Paris and Brussels might have on voters in the UK.

It has been a depressing week. The terrorist atrocities in Paris have renewed public fears over terrorism and security and dominated headlines. Terrorism and security threats are likely to remain high on the agenda. What effect might this have on Britain’s EU referendum? Continue reading