19 January 2021

New academic report underlines challenges and opportunities confronting the UK now it has left the EU

Academics from the Department of Politics and International Relations contribute to new report underlining the challenges and opportunities that confront the United Kingdom now it has left the European Union.

EU and UK flags

Brexit and Beyond, the new report from academic think tank UK in a Changing Europe, brings together some of the country’s leading social scientists including Dr Felicity Matthews, Professor Charlotte Burns, Dr Matthew Wood and Professor Matthew Flinders from the Department of Politics and International Relations and Professor Tamara Hervey from the School of Law. The report consists of written pieces addressing a swathe of issues ranging from the constitution to Covid-19, from consumer protection to relations with China. 

Highlights from the report include:

  • Thomas Sampson’s analysis of the long-term economic effects of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) finds UK exports to the EU could fall by more than a third over the next decade and total UK trade by more than 10%, with knock-on effects for incomes in the UK.
  • Mike Brewer warns the pandemic has worsened the UK’s already high and persistent structural inequalities. But, as Arianna Giovannini and Tom Forth argue, if ’levelling up’ simply means some extra infrastructure spending in the North, without real devolution of power and money, it is unlikely to achieve much.  Sustained policy action across a range of issues, from housing to business investment to skills and education to social care, is required, combined with a genuine, and long-term, effort to redistribute wealth, power and institutional capacity from Whitehall and Westminster.  In some respects, it would, ironically, make the UK look more European, not less.  But it represents the real opportunity for Britain beyond Brexit.  
  • Sara Hobolt and James Tilley show Brexit identities will continue to shape how the public interprets political events, from the vaccine rollout to economic growth and the future of the Union. Yet, as Paula Surridge explains, the traditional left-right political divides remain, and it will be the interaction of these two divides that shapes UK politics in future.
  • The implications for UK Union of the TCA with the EU are profound. Nicola McEwen explains there would likely be a hard border between England and Scotland in the event of Scottish independence. However, she argues that, as with the Brexit referendum, what might really matter in any Indyref2 is not warnings of economic disruption but the argument for self-determination.

Speaking about her contribution to the report, Dr Felicity Matthews said:

Britain’s withdrawal from the EU has had profound implications for the way in which policies are made and public services are delivered. In particular, as my contribution explains, arm’s-length public bodies in the UK will assume a diverse range of policymaking and regulatory responsibilities that were previously exercised by their EU counterparts. In addition, the scope for policy divergence will provide opportunities for public bodies to take on new functions or extend into new areas. More broadly, this report provides a comprehensive but accessible guide to anyone who is trying to get to grips with the manifold implications of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. It will be essential reading in the months ahead.

Dr Felicity Matthews

Senior Lecturer in Politics

Over 70 other academics from across the UK have contributed to the report, including Tim Bale, Catherine Barnard, Mark Blythe, Sir John Curtice, Danny Dorling, Sir Lawrence Freedman, Conor Gearty, Jonathan Portes, Meg Russell and Jill Rutter. 

The collection is divided into seven sections, dealing with: policy, public opinion, politics, the UK union, the economy, Government and law, and the UK’s external relations.  

Each of the 72 pieces has been written by a recognised expert in the field. They address key themes via a consideration of where we have come from, where we are now and where we are heading. The report aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the key issues confronting the UK in the months and years ahead.

As we move into the post-Brexit period, the UK in a Changing Europe will continue to act as a reliable source of expertise on the major issues confronting the UK. The Brexit process has and will continue to have enormous implications for politics, economics and society, and its effects will be compounded by the pandemic. Understanding these on the basis of evidence-based analysis will be crucial to ensure that public and political debates, and policy responses, meet the challenges and make most of the opportunities of the post-Brexit era.Read the full report

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