Summer School on "British Foreign Policy after Brexit", 13-14 June 2023
The Centre for Britain and Europe held a very successful and informative Summer School with high-profile panellists discussing various themes such as "Global Britain" and the EU-UK relationship. The keynote speakers discussed topics such as articulations of the UKs relationship with EU and the evolving narrative about Brexit. The panelists also discussed major foreign areas such as the European Security System and the need for a forum to confront pressing security issues.
First Keynote Speech
Professor Daniele Albertazzi introduced the Keynote Speaker, Professor Amelia Hadfield, CBE’s founder, and highlighted her continuing unparalleled contribution. Professor Hadfield’s talk on “UK Foreign Policy post-Brexit: Sunlit Uplands or Damage Limitations?” focused on the opportunity for the UK to contribute to Europe in different ways. The UK found itself in an interregnum. However, there was evidence of the UK beginning to reconnect with Europe through a strengthening of formal bilateral and multiple dialogues. This included playing a significant role in providing regulatory diplomacy in trade negotiations. Professor Hadfield also highlighted energy security opportunities such as the UK’s emerging role as a trading hub for European natural gas.
Second Keynote Speech
Professor Hadfield was delighted to introduce Professor Christopher Hill who gave a keynote address on “Returning to Europe: A bilateral relations ‘strategy’. He argued that that the period between 2016-2023 could be described as an evolving narrative of four phases linked to the objectives of the Conservative Party leaders during that period. Professor Hill provided four theoretical options for Britain's strategic direction towards the EU: disregarding EU foreign policy, building relationships with an inner core, competing with the EU with Britain as a leader, or developing the Global Britain project. Professor Hill emphasised the need for a deeper and clear-sighted relationship with the EU. He also warned that the UK was still a deeply divided society as evidenced by Brexit, and these divisions could resurface which would disrupt its foreign policy strategies. Professor Hill concluded that establishing constructive relationships, such as multilateral partnerships, was the direction to follow and that the UK should not ignore the EU, especially in terms of trade, migration, and intelligence.
Summer School Themed Panels
Global Britain (Panel and Roundtable)
The panel discussed the concept of "Global Britain" as a guiding principle for foreign policy post-Brexit. Professor Usherwood focused on British European policy and the Windsor Framework, while Dr Nikolaos Gkotsis Papaioannou discussed the EU's non-coercive, normative power strategy. He reflected on the EU and UK as hesitant global powers in an age of uncertainty. Catarina Liberato spoke about Global Britain's aim to strengthen ties with the United States in defence and trade. Professor Gianfranco Baldini reflected on the role of foreign affairs in the upcoming UK General Election drawing attention to a poll showing inflation as a higher salience issue than Brexit or foreign affairs. Dr Nicholas Wright demonstrated the link between national and international policy in the green transition. Professor Richard Whitman emphasized the importance of delivering action in cooperation with neighbours. Professor Theofanis Exadaktylos concluded that the EU now viewed Britain as an ally rather than a key partner until its position as "Global Britain" was more clearly defined.
European Cooperation Panel
The European Cooperation Panel featured discussions on various topics related to Brexit and European unity. Christian Turner spoke about the European Political Community and Boris Johnson's call for a 'Roman empire' alliance to strengthen European unity. Dr Benjamin Martill explored the idea that Brexit was a failed negotiating strategy that ended up with a harder exit than intended. Lucia Frigo discussed the transformed network of European foreign intelligence and the reduced power of the UK post-Brexit. While the UK had experienced reduced formal centrality and influence, informal relations have become more important, but there were limits to ad hoc cooperation.
UK-EU Relations post-Brexit and post-Ukraine
Professor Sarah Wolff argued that post-Brexit, the UK was seeking ways to cooperate with the EU and France to combat migration, while both the EU and UK viewed asylum as a growing geopolitical risk. In terms of foreign security policy co-operation, Professor Richard Whitman concluded that the UK was seeking to fit in where it could through differentiation, demonstrating the capacity to caucus with other groupings to highlight new possibilities for foreign security policy co-operation, on compensation and competition. Professor Gianfranco Baldini explained that his research suggested that Brexit had not produced a potent domino effect in terms of Euroscepticism in Europe.
Roundtable on European Security Cooperation Today
The Summer School concluded with a roundtable on current European security co-operation. Professor Christopher Hill argued that the European Union did not have a security system at all but that defining security was problematic because it had broadened over the years. He concluded there was a need for OSCE or a similar forum where the most pressing security issues could be confronted. Professor Amelia Hadfield thought that the EPC should be restructured to support some critical security issues. It was currently seen as an ante-chamber for potential EU membership. It could, however, become a forum to share collectively security issues that affected the whole continent. Dr Laura Chappell discussed the capacity and consensus expectations gap of the Rapid Deployment Capacity. She argued that, in terms of financing European security, much of the focus is on Ukraine and some member states are not keen to expand funding to other foreign ventures.
Those attending the Summer School were treated to a very engaging conference which had many insightful highlights. Organiser Dr Alia Middleton said: ‘It was great to have so many students and staff from the Surrey community and beyond delve into Brexit and how the UK is coping in its aftermath.”
Dr Nicole Boyce