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IFG - The government needs to counter its loss of clout in Europe after Brexit

The UK needs to raise its game if it wants to remain influential in Europe, says a new report by the Institute for Government.

The UK and the EU will need to work together to deal with shared problems such as climate change and terrorism. The UK will also want to shape EU rules on data and health and safety standards that will affect it after Brexit.

Ministers will find it much harder to have real influence in the EU when they are no longer ‘in the room’, and will need to commit effort and resources to achieve their goals. Simply relying on the formal meetings set out in the Political Declaration will not be enough to give the UK the sway it needs.

This new report, based on more than 60 interviews with diplomats from other non-EU countries who have experience of the barriers the UK will face, as well as UK government officials and business representatives, argues that the government needs to:

  • Work to shape those global trade, financial and climate rules that will become binding on the EU. The EU is a big player in many international organisations, like the World Trade Organization, but it is also increasingly influenced by them. The government must decide where it wants to work with the EU. It should also try to influence those global rules that will become binding on the UK and EU.
  • Increase spending. Unless the Foreign Office can offer competitive salaries, it will struggle to attract top civil servants to EU postings. The government also needs to make sure British embassies have the resources they need to host delegations and put on events.
  • Lobby the EU institutions. The UK will no longer be able to rely on votes and vetoes in Brussels. It will need to court diplomats from the EU and other countries and maintain relationships with all EU institutions.
  • Work closely with business and NGOs to promote British interests. Business and civil society actively lobby the EU and can help build relations with EU governments where the UK government cannot.
  • Take the devolved administrations into account when deciding the UK’s objectives. The government should also encourage the continued participation of the devolved administrations, Parliament, local authorities and cities in European initiatives.

Georgina Wright, senior researcher at the Institute for Government, said: “Brexit provides an opportunity for the UK and the EU to find new ways of working together. But getting the EU to listen to British ideas will be much harder once the UK is no longer in the room. Countries outside the EU show us that influencing the EU is possible but that the government will need to get better at targeting EU institutions, member states, and other missions in Brussels.”

Notes to editors

  1. Full report can be found on our website
  2. The Institute for Government is an independent think tank that works to make government more effective.
  3. For more information, including data to reproduce any charts, please contact / 0785 031 3791.

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