Smaller States’ Strategies and Influencing in the EU: Lessons and Choices for Scotland

Scotland EU

In this long-read, Kirsty Hughes, Director of the Scottish Centre of European Relations, discusses which strategies, tactics and alliances the Scottish Government should pursue, in order to develop its European strategy and build networks and influence post-Brexit. 

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


The question of how much power and influence smaller and medium-sized EU member states have, compared to larger ones, is a recurring one in analysis of the Union. While many of the political and policy divisions in the European Union have little to do with size, an enlarging Union, down the decades, has made sure issues around voting power and political representation periodically come up, usually around treaty change. In an EU of 27 states, how to have influence and impact is a question for all countries, but it’s also one that can be more demanding to answer for smaller states.

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UK-EU Trade Negotiations: The Level Playing Field


Luis González García is a trade lawyer at Matrix Chambers. Here he explains what the ‘level playing field’ means and why it is going to seriously complicate the Brexit trade negotiations. 


The UK has left the EU. Now negotiators from both sides need to reconcile their diverging interests. The UK wants to have the ability to change its regulations in order to compete in the world economy and negotiate meaningful trade agreements. The EU wants to maintain a level playing field between the UK and the EU27 and safeguard the stability of the Single Market. Recent events on both sides of the Channel have signalled how challenging this reconciliation might be.

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Influencing the European Green Deal and Industrial Strategy: Leaders and Laggards among Small EU States

anna-jimenez-calaf-PLOq7Ouq0fM-unsplashDavid Gow, Editor of, assesses the strategies which smaller EU member states use to influence EU industrial and green strategy. Focusing on success stories like Finland and Denmark, he outlines important lessons for Scotland. 

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

Towards the end of its six-month EU presidency, in late December 2019, Finland offered the same free gift to all EU member states it had already given to folk at home: a basic online course in Artificial Intelligence (AI) for all 500m citizens. The aim is to persuade 1% of the population or 5m to take the course by the end of 2021. Sweden and the Netherlands are following in their wake.

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Ireland as a small state success story in Europe?


Ben Tonra, Professor of International Relations at University College Dublin, outlines the success and influence of Ireland as an EU member state.

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

As a former colony with a strong sense of independence, Ireland’s willingness to pool its hard-won sovereignty in the European Union has most often been explained as a necessary trade-off between formal sovereignty and effective sovereignty. When Ireland joined the European Communities (EC) it had all the formal attributes of a sovereign, independent state but it was in fact an underdeveloped economic appendage of Britain. Over the course of the next quarter century, Irish policy makers took full advantage of EC membership – and the financial transfers associated therewith – to create one of the most successful economies in Europe. It delivered full employment, European chart-topping growth rates and a modern, internationally traded industrial and service-based economy grounded in the successful attraction of high levels of foreign direct investment.

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The EU should be concerned about the UK’s plans to rule out an extension to the transition period

Image result for piet eeckhout"Piet Eeckhout, Dean of UCL Laws and Academic Director of the UCL European Institute, argues that the Government’s plans to enshrine in law that the transition period can’t be extended could be both legally and politically problematic. 



The government is proposing to add a new clause to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill which will exclude an extension of the transition period. This would enshrine in UK law Boris Johnson’s commitment not to extend the transition period beyond 31 December 2020. Given Johnson’s large majority, this new clause is likely to pass in Parliament in January.  There is however a strong need to reconsider.

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