Published: 25 January 2022

Jean Monnet Online Winter School 2022

The Centre for Britain and Europe (CBE) held their second online Jean Monnet Winter School on 19 January 2022.

Focused on the themes of Brexit and Europe, the Winter School offered the opportunity to explore the cross-disciplinary work of the Centre and gain insights into member’s own research. See below for full running order of the day.

After being welcomed by the CBE Co-Directors, Professor Amelia Hadfield and Dr Alia Middleton, the Winter School began by discussing the theme of ‘Governance and Brexit’. Professor Melanie Torrent and Elias Msaddek from the Université de Picardie Jules Verne discussed the mounting tensions between France and the UK across a multitude of areas such as fishing, migration, Brexit and Covid-19 travel restrictions to name just a few. Professor Melanie Torrent explained that whilst there has been a move away from ‘Frexit’, the impact of Brexit has not lessened the criticism on the part of the Rassemblement National and has certainly given rise to increased anti-British sentiment particularly along the coastal regions. Elias Msaddek went on to share his PHD research thus far and spoke of the cultural projects that exist to foster the relationship between the UK and France, such as the Channel Circus Arts Alliance. This project, which implicitly promotes the idea of Europeanisation and the creation of shared/common identities, is often negatively perceived in the local British press, especially in areas which strongly voted for Brexit. As a result, Elias is focusing on how European cultural projects are perceived by the UK population and the link this has to how such projects are perceived in the press.

Christian Turner, a PhD student from the University of Surrey, discussed and defined what is meant by the term ‘Global Britain’. Since the UK voted to leave the EU, Britain’s foreign policy has centred around ‘Global Britain’ to prevent the country from becoming inward looking. Whilst the Integrated Review sets out the government’s vision for the UK’s role in the world, such as to be a science and technology superpower by 2030, it has been criticised for following a more domestic rather than international narrative. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come to define the term ‘Global Britain’ however, Christian posed the pressing question of what will a ‘Global Britain’ look like in a post Johnson era?

Moving on to the theme of ‘Post Brexit Politics’, Dr Nick Wright from the University of Surrey cast a spotlight on the fact that Brexit will implicitly and explicitly shape the UK’s political environment for years to come. Dr Nick Wright highlighted that it is difficult to move beyond Brexit for many reasons which include the implementation of complex administrative tasks, the squeeze on labour markets, a lack of trade deals with the US, and the political appeal of Brexit which is an attractive tool for the Conservative Party in order to galvanise their support base. ‘Get Brexit done’ was the basis of Johnson’s successful 2019 campaign as it enabled a unique coalition of electoral support. However, with the Labour Party still struggling to establish a coherent vision on Brexit, Johnson or the next Tory leader may use the issue of Brexit to sure up their position. To move on in a post Brexit world, Dr Nick Wright discussed the importance of withdrawing the toxicity from the relationship with the EU. To achieve this, the UK must look to take a pragmatic approach, implementing treaty commitments, making use of existing structures, and acknowledging shared interests to reinstate a more stabilised UK-EU relationship.

When analysing key trends in Europe from an interdisciplinary perspective, Professor Holger Breinlich from the University of Surrey explained that from an economic point of view, the UK’s EU membership only ended recently when the UK left the Single Market. As a result of Brexit, the UK’s economy is affected through three principal channels: uncertainty effects, anticipation effects and exchange rate movements. Using what Professor Holger Breinlich termed a ‘naïve approach’ of comparing UK performance to that of other G7 countries, as well as statistical methods to construct a doppelganger of the UK by combining data from other countries, it can be concluded that UK GDP is approximately 2% lower because of the referendum outcome.

Dr Noreen O’Meara from the University of Surrey followed this by contributing a law perspective. In terms of EU law, Brexit is just one part of a much larger narrative in terms of policy making. The European Commission’s political priorities were defined in 2019 however, Dr Noreen O’Meara highlighted that many of these priorities have been exacerbated because of the pandemic. For example, the digital economy became even more pertinent following the spread of Covid-19 due to the increase of fake news, misinformation and disinformation regarding the virus and subsequent vaccine roll out. By Spring 2022 the Conference of the Future of Europe is expected to provide guidance on where Europe is heading. Dr Noreen O’Meara explained that whilst this has not received a huge amount of publicity, it will be interesting to see where the UK will fit in to the future of Europe and how the Conference forecasts UK-EU relations.

In the last discussion of the Winter School, Dr Theofanis Exadaktylos and Vassilis Karokis-Mavrikos from the University of Surrey spoke on the theme of ‘Making Policy in a Pandemic’. Dr Theofanis Exadaktylos highlighted that the success of a policy is dependent on political determination. However, the success of policy implementation is contingent on street level agents. Policy makers rely on street level agents as they not only have an insight into the challenges of implementing a policy but are also responsible for promoting ideas and creating advocacy elites. In a time of crisis however, communication between the policy maker and street agents is not always clear due to a variety of reasons such as urgency. This was the case with the Covid-19 pandemic, a transnational crisis carried forward by the street level agents of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. Using the case study of Greece during the first wave of the pandemic, Dr Theofanis Exadaktylos explained that the Greek National Health System demonstrated considerable resilience because the expertise of health care professionals was used in a depoliticised way to drive policy decisions and implementation on the ground. Detailing their current findings from ongoing research in Greece regarding policy implementation during the Covid-19 pandemic, Vassilis Karokis-Mavrikos and Dr Theofanis Exadaktylos concluded that street level agents are part of the solution as opposed to the problem when it comes to successful policy implementation. During a time of crisis, when street level agents understand what actions need to be taken to deal with the problem at hand, they become more creative to effectively implement policy.

Each speaker generated an abundance of questions from both the audience and fellow speakers, paving the way for some interesting discussions off the back of the key themes. Overall, this was a morning of incredibly insightful research and we would like to thank everyone who took part. Onwards, to the next Jean Monnet School!

Written by Evie Horner.


Jean Monnet Online Winter School 2022

Presented by the Centre for Britain and Europe, Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence, Department of Politics, University of Surrey.

Wednesday 19 January 2022

9:30-9:40am: Welcome

Professor Amelia Hadfield & Dr Alia Middleton (CBE Co-Directors)

9:45-10:15am: Governance and Brexit

Professor Melanie Torrent Université de Picardie Jules Verne, Elias Msaddek, Université de Picardie Jules Verne and Christian Turner, University of Surrey

10:30-11am: Moving beyond post-Brexit politics

Dr Nick Wright (TBC), University of Surrey

11:15am-12:45pm: Key Trends in Europe from an Interdisciplinary Perspective

Professor Holger Breinlich (Economics), Dr Noreen O’Meara (Law), University of Surrey

12noon-12:20pm: Making policy in a pandemic

Dr Theofanis Exadaktylos and Vassilis Karokis-Mavrikos, University of Surrey

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