The State of Europe

As the EU approaches its 50th anniversary next year, many will be wondering whether the union will make it through the next fifty. In truth, 2016 has not been an easy year for the union; marked by the continuation of economic woes, the issues surrounding migration and refugees, and the shock of the Brexit vote.

There is, however, a sense of opportunity from the more optimistic advocates of the European project as the EU sets out its agenda without its so called ‘reluctant partner’. Indeed, European leaders met recently in September for an informal summit in Bratislava in the UK’s absence. The rallying call came from none other than the European Council President Donald Tusk that leaders “must not let this crisis go to waste”. The shock of the Brexit vote could push EU leaders to solve questions surrounding migration, economic instability, and defence and security to prevent a further populist swell.

On the latter issue, the French are keen to pursue further cooperation on a common defence policy at the EU level, as Brexit presents an opportunity to push ahead without British resistance. In reality, it remains to be seen if Brexit presents an opportunity to bring harmony to the union on such issues. Whilst public support for the union has surged across the continent since the UK referendum, politicians continue to be divided on the exact path forward. The agreed ‘roadmap’ at Bratislava amounts to little more than a vague commitment for each country to do their best for the union as the contentious issues persist; especially surrounding the ongoing migrant crisis.

Despite a mandatory migrant quota plan passed by the EU council of ministers in September, doubts about its prospects for success have emerged with Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania’s opposition to the plan. The scheme to relocate 120,000 migrants from Greece and Italy despite the approval of a majority is set to face legal challenges from Hungary and Slovakia – two of the so called “Visegrad Group” – joined by Poland and Czech Republic who expressed their dissatisfaction with the EU’s handling of migration at Bratislava. Though the plan grants €6000 of EU Aid for each refugee accepted by a state, it seems that populist resistance to migrants trump economic incentives for leaders in Hungary and Slovakia. In Hungary, a referendum on the plan saw 98% of voters reject the EU’s position in favour of the government. The 40% turnout rendered the result invalid with pro-migrant voters tactically staying at home, nonetheless the result is symptomatic of the populist and anti-immigrant sentiment engulfing the continent and beyond.

Perhaps the most recent realisation of this is the shock election of Donald Trump on the back of promises to build a wall and ban Muslims. If few people had expected the Brexit result, almost no one expected Trump to win in an election that is set to have profound implications for the continent. Such is the profound nature of the result that foreign ministers met on Sunday to discuss the effect of a Trump presidency on US commitment to NATO, free trade and the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The meeting was notably snubbed by Boris Johnson in a move indicating that the UK may already be moving away from Europe and towards the US. Certainly, May’s cabinet may be eyeing up a trade deal to vindicate the hard-Brexit that the UK may be heading for if it pursues restrictions on free movement. Trump’s proclamation that the UK would not be “at the back of the queue”, in contradiction to the line touted by Obama, will not have gone unnoticed.

If the UK and USA are going it alone then, perhaps Trump presents not just a challenge but an opportunity for the EU to relinquish its reliance on the USA. Indeed, the French Foreign Minister signalled last week that Trump’s election could be the tipping point for a coordinated European defence force. The chairman of the Conservative bloc in the European parliament, Manfred Weber, even went as far to say that Trump may “force Europe to grow up” on a whole host of issues from climate change to trade policy.

On the contrary, it is possible for EU leaders to view the political environment that saw Trump elected as a threat to their own survival. Many will be concerned by the glee expressed by France’s National Front at Trump’s election. Certainly, Brexit and Trump cast new uncertainty on French and German elections next year with the rise of far-right parties posing a threat to stability.

In light of this, the spotlight will likely turn to the awaited December 4th re-run of the Austrian Presidential election, as the far-right Freedom Party Norbert Hofer narrowly leads Independent left-leaning Alexander Van Der Bellen in the polls. On the same day, and perhaps of greater significance, is the Italian referendum on constitutional reform proposed by Prime Minister Renzi to streamline the policy process. As with Brexit, there is a danger that the referendum will simply be a test of the electorate’s trust in politicians rather than the issue itself. Renzi’s earlier commitment to resign should he lose has done little to help despite the later backtracking. Should Renzi’s proposal be rejected as polls suggest, there are concerns of yet another election in Italy and yet more market instability for the EU should the populist Five Star Movement prosper from Renzi’s downfall. The reality may not be so chaotic, but an uneasiness about the result endures.

Whilst the EU desperately tries to find common ground and unity, perhaps the true current state of Europe is one of division and uncertainty.

Aaron Mile is the Editor of the European Affairs Policy Centre at the King’s Think Tank.

Dublin vs. Dubs And The Lack of Executive Oversight

Since Europe’s migrant crisis began in early 2015 vast swathes of the public, human rights campaigners and politicians alike have been disturbed by the images of the unsafe, unsanitary and punishing conditions in refugee camps across Europe. Thus, the transfer of unaccompanied asylum seeking children from the Calais ‘Jungle’ to the UK in October was, without doubt, a cause for celebration, and signified a milestone in the struggle for a more humane immigration and asylum policy.

Yet, there is an alarming political reality behind the arrival of child refugees in immigration processing centres in the UK, because domestic immigration legislation passed in May 2016 allows for many more children to come to the UK than have actually been permitted. The arrival of unaccompanied minors, which should have provoked a moment of celebration, was simultaneously a bittersweet reminder of the Government’s woefully inadequate response to Europe’s migrant crisis.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd hailed the arrival of 312 unaccompanied asylum seeking children to the UK as “a really good result”. Yet, where the Government congratulates itself on accepting a mere 300 children, it is a fact that domestic legislation does allow for the UK to positively impact the lives of hundreds – even thousands – more children.

To explain, unaccompanied asylum seeking children can be brought to the UK under one of two systems. Firstly, the Family Reunification provisions of the Dublin III Regulations allow for asylum seekers who have family members that have already received international protection in another state to be transferred to join those family members and have their asylum claim determined by that country. This is an existing system rooted in EU asylum policy – meaning the Government have no choice but to comply with the legislation, and there is no limit to the number of children who can be brought to the UK.

On the other hand, the Dubs system of transfer allows for unaccompanied children with or without family in the UK to be transferred into British care, providing that they arrived in Europe before 20th March 2016 and that it is deemed to be in the child’s “best interests” to be relocated. Thus, many children who lack family members in the UK and are thus excluded from coming to the UK under the Dublin Regulations may now fall under the criteria of the Dubs amendment.

The Dubs amendment was tabled and named after Labour peer Lord Alf Dubs, who was himself brought to the UK under the Kindertransport scheme during the Second World War. It is rooted in section 67 of the 2016 Immigration Act which make provisions for the acceptance of an unspecified number of unaccompanied child refugees. The Dubs system is still being established and, crucially, since it is entrenched in domestic law it does not therefore hold any power across the Channel.

As explained, these two systems are not synonymous – however, they are often conflated. In the publication of quarterly immigration statistics and in the Home Secretary’s statements to the House of Commons, it is often unclear whether the children in question are being transferred under the Dubs amendment, or the Dublin III Regulations. Such a failure to properly distinguish between these two systems makes it difficult to judge the extent to which the provisions of the Dubs amendment are being properly fulfilled. This conveniently enables the Government to disguise the number of children actually accepted under the Dubs system. As of 1st November, 312 unaccompanied children have been transferred from Calais. However, 252 of these were Dublin cases – the Government had no choice but to accept them. In short, British authorities have voluntarily accepted only 60 cases under the Dubs amendment.

Putting aside the debate about the number of refugees the UK should be accepting, the delayed response in enacting the provisions of the Dubs amendment is indicative of the disproportionate power of the executive – and therefore the ailing health of British democracy. Despite legislative apparatus being in place since May 2016, it was not until mid-October – a full five months after the passage of the Immigration Act – that the first child was brought to the UK under the Dubs system.

In a statement to the House, the Home Secretary blamed the delay in establishing the Dubs transfers on the fact that the “French Government was requesting we did not transfer children outside of the Dublin Regulation process”. This explanation seems improbable at best – especially considering that the French have, for years, been consistently pressuring the British to take more responsibility for the situation in Calais. Most recently, the French President François Hollande called on the British Government “to take your responsibilities and assume your moral duty by immediately organising their [refugee children’s] arrival”. Therefore, it is plain to see that any delays in arranging the Dubs system are not being caused by the French.

Either way, this does not account for the woeful lack of preparation on this side of the Channel. Whether or not the French allowed for the transfer of persons under the Dubs amendment, the Home Office had five months over the summer to make the necessary preparations. Despite this, the arrival of the first child refugees was surrounded by allegations that the Home Office opted not to act on a plan designed and agreed by councils to ensure vulnerable child refugees were adequately housed. Leaked emails also show the Home Office descending into widespread panic as they had failed to make adequate accommodation provisions for the newly arrived unaccompanied minors.

Meanwhile, in the camp itself there has been a substantial human cost to this sluggish response. According to Help Refugees UK, since partial demolition of the camp began in February this year, 129 minors have gone missing. Countless more have fallen victim to traffickers, smugglers, road accidents and police brutality. This was entirely preventable, had the Home Office established the Dubs system sooner.

Although the Dubs amendment does not provide a definitive time limit on the implementation of its provisions, it does state that the process should be implemented “as soon as possible after the passing of this Act”. Clearly this legislation has not been interpreted and implemented properly. Such failure is emblematic of not just the current Government’s morally unacceptable stance on the humanitarian crisis, but also of the disturbing ease with which the executive is able to indefinitely delay and therefore effectively circumvent requirements set out through Parliament’s full democratic process.

It is yet more troubling to consider the Government’s apparent inability to efficiently organise the transfer of children in light of the speed with which they have supplied funds to the French in order to protect British economic interests. In October £36 million was provided to the French to further strengthen perimeter security around the Euro-tunnel complex, and support the general clearance of the ‘Jungle’. This begs the question, if £36 million can be found to support the demolition of the camp, why can it not be found to support the Government’s commitment under the Dubs amendment – a provision which possesses democratic mandate, unlike the spending of millions of pounds on Eurotunnel security?

Equally disturbing is the reality that it was only with the imminent demolition of the ‘Jungle’ that the Government finally acted. However, that the camp was to be demolished by the end of 2016 has been common knowledge since February. The power to bring children to the UK was granted in May. The children in question should have been identified, registered and transferred long before the demolition began. Instead, over 100 unaccompanied minors were left sleeping rough amongst the ashes and debris of the camp in the immediate aftermath, because British and French authorities failed to remove the children before demolition began.[1]

Had the Home Office acted upon its obligations under the Dubs amendment “as soon as possible” – as the Act stated – the violence and trauma experienced by vulnerable children could have been avoided. It is chilling to consider how much longer British authorities would have dithered before acting under the obligations of Dubs had the demolition of the ‘Jungle’ taken place later.

Just as relevant to the sudden burst of activity on the part of the Home Office, is a legal case brought against the Home Secretary in mid-October. Help Refugees (represented by Leigh Day Solicitors) challenged the Home Secretary’s failure to properly interpret and implement section 67 of the Immigration Act. It would be, I argue, more than conjecture to suggest that this could be a key motivator behind the Government’s subsequent acceleration in implementing the transfer process.

Finally, we must ask ourselves, why did it take the closure of the camp itself and a judicial review of the Home Office to begin the process of transferring children – something which statute stipulated should have begun sooner? Whether or not one agrees with the specific provisions of the Dubs amendment, deliberate delay in the implementation of statute to fulfil the executive’s own agenda reflects not just the current Government’s depraved and immoral stance on Europe’s migrant crisis, but is also emblematic of the worrying lack of effective controls on the power of the executive.

Bradley Albrow is the Head Liaison of the King’s Think Tank.


[1] Figures from Help Refugees UK.

In Defence of Diplomacy: A Case for Dialogue

Amidst the reeling shock of Tuesday’s night’s election result, the ‘Trump Doctrine’ is a looming concern for pundits and media alike. Regardless of whether or not he chooses to pursue his more ambitious proposals, Trump’s global ambitions seem certain to herald considerable change. It remains to be seen whether he will ‘rip up’ the Iran Deal, ‘bomb the sh*t out of ISIS’, slap a huge tariff on imports from China, recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and cosy up to Putin, among others. Consistently however, the 45th President has premised his foreign policy position (and campaign more broadly) on the need to “Make America Great Again”. The popular charge, that the United States’ foreign policy reflects decay and weakness, propelled by Trump, has captured the breadth of America’s political compass. Whilst the President-Elect perceives this as symptomatic of bad leadership, for a scholar like Ian Bremmer, Chairman of Eurasia Group (no friend of Trump), an ‘incoherent’ foreign policy doctrine following the end of the Cold War is the culprit.[1]

This article however, seeks to reframe the debate entirely. In the run-up to the 8th of November, a persistent failure to acknowledge the changing nature of international order, which warrants an entirely different benchmark for the success of foreign policy today, has plagued the discourse. It shall thus be argued that the major strategic-diplomatic breakthroughs achieved in President Obama’s second term, particularly with Iran, but also Cuba and Myanmar, have been a resounding success when measured against the changing nature of global power today. These hard-fought gains are, without doubt, under considerable threat.

The Changing Norms of the International Sphere: A Survey

Writing in 1994, Dr. Kissinger, former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, noted in his seminal Diplomacy, that ‘power has become more diffuse’.[2] Indeed, over twenty years later, President-Elect Trump faces a changing world. With China and India’s rapid growth rates, a revanchist Russia spreading its influence over Crimea and the Levant, and a divided Europe, power seems to have diffused even further. Whilst it may be premature to declare the onset of a multi-polar world, there is ample evidence of growing regionalization and a changing international order. With sluggish economic growth in the Western Hemisphere oft contrasted with rapid growth and advancement in Asia, the question of rising regional influence by China and others is pressing. China’s achievement in reaching regional and even global consensus independently from Washington through the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank illustrates these changing dynamics in action. As a separate piece recently published by King’s Think Tank focusses in depth on the challenges and opportunities presented by China’s rise, we propose instead to focus on a more pressing and polarizing election issue. Namely the Iranian Nuclear Deal, which Trump has threatened to scrap on day one.

Tehran, Havana and Naypyidaw

The achievement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran,[3] alongside the Cuba Thaw and lifting of sanctions on Myanmar, certainly demonstrates a strong willingness towards constructive dialogue and diplomacy. Let us begin with the Iranian case. Whilst the JCPOA offers limited sanctions relief in exchange for compliance with restrictions and monitoring, its significance represents more than a one-time agreement. That Iran represents a country with a growth rate projected to swiftly increase,[4] with a relatively youthful and large population of over 80 million,[5] [6] certainly implies it is one with great economic potential. This, combined with the fact that the country is a significant regional actor, with interests across the Levant and the Gulf, means that the deal was struck by no mere minor player. By seizing the opportunity presented by the election of the reformist-minded Rouhani, and crafting a compromise agreement that steadily ushers Iran back into the international order, the Obama Administration has sought to bring a slowly Rising Power back into its rules based international framework, after years of isolation. This is the typically ignored facet of the agreement with Iran, and the international agreements shelled out by the United States as a whole. Left isolated, the Islamic Republic is arguably more likely to pursue regionally destabilizing policies, or continue its support for terrorist groups unabated, as it remains outside the sphere of international norms. Whilst opponents presume that consistently punishing a growing country like Iran with sanctions alone will eventually force it into submission, Iran has continued its support for said policies in spite of the various sanctions regimes placed on it. Moreover, this neglects the long-run growth potential of such a country, which certainly may not succumb so easily to the coercive force of sanctions in the future, as recent Russian Foreign Policy has demonstrated.

The ‘Cuba Thaw’ and the lifting of sanctions on Myanmar likewise suggest a consistency in the Administration’s policy of constructive dialogue. Cuba, which looks set for a leadership transition in 2018, and Myanmar, which seems poised for greater openness amidst high-level growth,[7] are themselves facing times of great change. Whilst human rights concerns are often cited as reasons to refrain from any form of engagement, the United States’ largest trading partner is China,[8] oft-criticized for its own human rights record. The argument therefore, that human rights concerns justify a continuing trade embargo or sanctions seems hypocritical, from a national standpoint, if inconsistently applied. Instead, this punishes ordinary citizens by preventing access to vital goods, which in the case of Cuba, is a stance which the entire world recently reaffirmed its condemnation of. Taken together, and the three reflect a policy-strategy that seeks to build cooperative relations, that includes these states into the mainstream global economic and political order.

The Future

Nonetheless, we must grapple with the impending change in Administration, which appears poised to undo at least the Iranian process. See Fig.1.


(Fig 1.)

As of 2017, it would appear that the Trump pathway, triggering Iranian refusals to proceed further seems the most imminent. Following this course, and it is likely that the opponents of the deal will react to Iran’s refusal to proceed further as underlying evidence that Iran was acting in bad faith all along. Thus, an easy political shot for blaming the Obama Administration’s bad diplomacy. Nonetheless, the possibility that Europe, and probability that Russia and China will indeed perceive this as the US not ‘playing by the rules’ is ever present.[9] Hence it is entirely possible for the deal to remain in force through active Iranian cooperation with the other parties involved in negotiations, and as a result, the United States would be the one perceived as acting in bad faith.

Though some of these factors indeed occur independently today (for instance, support for the various Shi’i factions), it is important to stress how, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has met its JCPOA commitments.[10] As a recent Chatham House discussion in fact highlighted, fear of penalties from the Department of Justice have put several major companies off doing business with Iran. Uncertainty surrounding the deal at present therefore, emanates mainly from the US side, and refusal to proceed further will undoubtedly shatter the trust that is steadily building on both sides.[11] Though the fruits of such an agreement would take time to appear, we must be cautious to distinguish the source of any deal collapse, and whether this be down to regional, or American intransigence. At present, the latter appears most viable, and the fruits look poised to spoil.


The Administration’s strategy is thus significant, insofar as it reflects a tacit acknowledgement that power is diffusing, and that America’s relative position will inevitably diminish alongside this. Through crafting far-reaching, and inclusive agreements, thereby encouraging partnership within a rules-based framework, the policy has reflected a long-term recognition of changing global order, and an effort to preserve and develop absolute political and economic influence. These achievements risk being jeopardized by a short-sighted policy position, that fails to acknowledge changing global order.

Whilst it is not necessarily the case that said diplomatic approach will work in every case (nor should it in instances of blatant and aggressive disregard for international order and standards) this post does not seek to advocate for a universal approach. Rather, it calls for a form of diplomatic entrepreneurialism – a combined approach seeking opportunities of dynamic change, and new leadership, and exploiting the chance to work with those who are more open to constructive dialogue, as the Obama Administration has done. Indeed, we have yet to see whether Trump is ‘All Talk, No Action’ or as ambitious as he claims. From his claims however, the next Administration appears poised to pursue an ill-defined slew of befriending revanchists and neglecting rising powers, as per proposals to immediately scupper the Iranian Nuclear Deal, the Trans Pacific Partnership, and a huge tariff on imports from China. Whilst dialogue occasionally requires a simultaneous show of strength and commitment as practiced with the deployment of the stuxnet virus and sanctions against Iran’s nuclear capabilities, dialogue fundamentally provides a forum to increase mutual understanding and empathy, enabling states to refrain from the economic and all too human costs of war.

 Rohan Khanna is editor of the Defence and Diplomacy Policy Centre.


[1] Ian Bremmer, Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World (New York: Penguin, 2015)

[2] Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994)

[3] “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” European External Action Service. July 2015. Accessed July 2015. Available:

[4] “Iran’s Economic Outlook- Spring 2016.” World Bank. Spring 2016. Accessed October 30, 2016.

[5] The median age in Iran is 29.4 years. Half of Iran’s population is below this age. By way of comparison, the   United Kingdom’s is 40.5, and the United States’ is 37.9. See “CIA World Factbook.” Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed October 2016.

[6] “CIA World Factbook – Iran” Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed October 2016.

[7] “Myanmar: Economy.” Asian Development Bank. September 2016. Accessed October 2016.

[8] “Top Trading Partners – August 2016.” United States Census Bureau. August 2016. Accessed October 2016.

[9] Cornelius Adebahr. “What Would Happen If the U.S. Congress Killed the Iran Deal?” Carnegie Europe. August 6, 2015. Accessed October 2016.

[10] “Verification and Monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in Light of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015).” International Atomic Energy Agency. September 8, 2016. Accessed October 2016. Available:

[11] Seyed Hossein Mousavian and Sina Toossi. “U.S. Torpedoing the Nuclear Deal Will Reaffirm Iran’s Distrust.” The Huffington Post. April 29, 2016. Accessed November 2016.