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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The UK needs a new independent body to protect the environment after Brexit

File 20171107 1020 qm66hy.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1Environmental standards and accountability in the UK are profoundly shaped by EU legislation and policy, even the very softest of Brexits will expose gaps in the UK’s governance framework. Maria Lee, Professor of Law and co-director of the UCL Centre for Law and Environment, argues that new mechanisms are required to ensure accountability and protection of the environment in the UK after Brexit.

For four decades, EU legislation and policy has profoundly shaped the protection of the UK environment. It’s hard to predict exactly what Brexit will mean for Britain’s beaches, air pollution, recycling standards or wildlife conservation – but there is no doubt it will be significant. Continue reading

Managing the new parliament: some challenges for Theresa May’s minority government

whitehall blogThe unexpected election result leaves the Conservatives seeking to establish a minority government, with support from the Democratic Unionist Party’s ten MPs. With fewer than half the seats in the House of Commons, and barely more than half when adding the DUP, Theresa May’s new government will face many additional challenges in parliament. UCL Constitution Unit Director Meg Russell explores some of the clearest examples.

Following weeks of speculation about the general election result, few were contemplating the prospect of a minority government led by Theresa May. The Prime Minister proposed the election in the clear expectation of an increased House of Commons majority, citing (in a rather exaggerated manner) difficulties in parliament. Instead she now doesn’t have a majority at all: the Conservatives are on 318 in a 650-number House. Combined others (excluding seven Sinn Féin, who do not take their seats), have 324. May’s government is hence liable to be outnumbered without relying on the support of the 10 DUP members, with whom she has opened talks.

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Will this election result derail the PM’s Brexit plans?

10725847516_58fe8262bc_oThe election result was a disaster for Theresa May and the consequences for Brexit are profound. Although this will certainly weaken the PM’s hand, there is one way in which Theresa May could benefit from the outcome, argues Uta Staiger, Executive Director of the UCL European Institute.

When Theresa May called the surprise snap election she’d vowed so very often not to call, it was supposed to help her deliver Brexit. A decisive personal mandate, she claimed, would protect her vision of Brexit from the opposition parties hell-bent on derailing it—and strengthen her hand in Brussels.

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Why a landslide victory might actually be a bad thing for Theresa May

If Theresa May is hoping an increased Commons majority will aid the Brexit negotiations, she is likely to be disappointed, argues Benjamin Martill, Research Associate at the UCL European Institute. 

Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election at a time when her party is riding high in the polls has been widely seen as an opportunity for her to dramatically increase her majority in the House of Commons from a slim 12 seats to potentially triple figures.

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