Britain after Brexit: Now it must – again – define itself as a nation

Britain has left the European Union. The historic referendum has left the sitting government in hot water. Now, David Cameron has pledged to resign, the pound has dropped drastically, and the UK’s legislators are left with the daunting task of redefining themselves, as well as renegotiating with the rest of the world. For some, the day marks a reclamation of British democracy, whereby the people of the country now are free from the bureaucratic shackles of Brussels. For others, it marks a historical step back, sending Britain into isolation again with the prospects of recession on the horizon.

“What lies ahead is a monolithic task for British lawmakers to build an independent future for Britain, and forge a path to the future in law and trade.”

Indeed, Britain’s political scene will see great changes in the next few months. The Prime Minister lost his great gamble on the EU, announcing his departure from office by October. Meanwhile the likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson are declaring independence day. Likely, they will play a large part in the new face of the government. The result has also prompted Alex Salmond to call for a second independence referendum for Scotland, stating that it is the result of “Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will”.

This is a result that has been brewing for years, as anti-Brussels rhetoric has been on the rise from both sides of the aisle in British politics. For years, the political scene in the UK has been fiercely anti-Brussels. Now, with growing austerity and pressure on immigration what was once rhetoric has turned into a reality. ‘Remain’ campaigners were sure to make clear the risks of Brexit, and warned of an immediate recession. This morning, the FTSE 100 index opened with an 8% plunge, along with the sterling. What lies ahead is a monolithic task for British lawmakers to build an independent future for Britain, and forge a path to the future in law and trade. It must, again, define itself as a nation.

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Will Brexit be the end of the EU in general? Of course, this question has its roots not only in the rhetorical quips of the British government, but in the very structure of the EU itself. In the years to come, they will be facing referendum after referendum if they do not enact sweeping organisational reforms. Anti-EU rhetoric is high across many of the European countries and a fear is that this result will embolden nationalist movements across Europe, sparking more divide. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council has said that the European countries must meet to discuss the future of the EU and how they are to respond to the UK’s decision to leave. Facing disunity at historic levels both economically and politically, one thing remains clear: They must reform.

Britain’s history with the EU goes back to the Second World War. The European Coal and Steel Community banded together in the wake of WWII to align Europe economically to prevent the same kind of violent bloodshed. From then on it has created the common, and then single market, faced energy crises, dictators (General Franco, for example) and the environment. It has grown closer politically and in mutual defence, eventually establishing its own basis with the Lisbon Treaty.

“The EU must, too, redefine itself or face further disbandment.”

Britain joined the European Economic Community under the leadership of Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath in 1973, supported by more than 67% of Britons in the 1975 referendum. The relationship was at times strained, with Thatcher pushing against a political union, and humiliation at “Black Wednesday”. But it also seemed to be growing ever closer, by way of Blair bringing the UK nearer to the Euro as well as enacting EU social protections. With all of its exemptions and powers in the institution, Britain will be invoking the Lisbon Treaty and packing its bags.

A project once known as ambitious and democratic has been widely labelled overbearing and bureaucratic. The future of the UK is at stake with economic and political pressures from within. The EU must, too, redefine itself or face further disbandment. We undeniably sit in times of ambiguity with regard to the future of both the UK and the EU. However, one thing is certain: There is a lot of work to be done.

Alexander Botashev
European Affairs Policy Centre President
King’s Think Tank

Educational inequality – addressing the root causes

In the face of rising poverty levels and with this, rising educational inequality, the education system in the UK is in clear need of reform. King’s Think Tank hosted a panel discussion on ‘The Inequality of Education in the UK’ on the 23rd November 2015 – an opportune event in light of the upcoming Spending Review, as education is the third largest area of public expenditure. Over one hundred think tank members joined panelists David Hoare – Chair of Ofsted, Amy Finch – Researcher on Education Policy at Reform, James Dobson – Researcher at Bright Blue, as well as Johnny Luk – CEO of NACUE (National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs). Head of the Education Policy Centre Francesca Tripaldi, introduced the debate providing an overview of post-war education policy to date, scrutinizing current reforms proposed by Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan MP. Continue reading “Educational inequality – addressing the root causes”

Brexit: The British Inability To Comprehend Bro-operation

On 11 November 2015, Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a speech on ‘The Future of Britain’s Relationship with the European Union’. Delivered at Chatham House, he outlined the four reforms the United Kingdom sought from the European Union: economic governance, competitiveness, sovereignty, and immigration. Continue reading “Brexit: The British Inability To Comprehend Bro-operation”

A View from the Think Tank: Talk First, Fight Later.

Editor’s Note: This was written before the Commons vote on air-strikes in Syria, but serves as a well-thought through indictment of an ill-thought through rush to war. It is a long read, but an important one. 

The terror attacks that took place on Friday 13th of November 2015 have proved to be a catalyst for a shift in policy away from the containment of ISIS to its destruction. Parallel to this there has been a shifting discourse concerning not only the nature and identity of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, but also of European and western society. The long term cultural impact of recent events has yet to be revealed. However, in the immediate term it is important to present three questions. A) What is the regional context in which ISIS operates? B) How can ISIS be defeated? C) How can regional stability be established? Continue reading “A View from the Think Tank: Talk First, Fight Later.”

The Spending Review: Short-termism, Ideology and Economic Illiteracy

On Wednesday, Chancellor George Osborne presented his long-awaited Autumn Statement and Spending Review. The Spending Review sets departmental spending limits for the next four years and was combined with the annual Autumn Statement, which lays out government taxation and deficit reduction plans for the coming year. They have engendered much protest as they continue the austerity policy that the Tories have vehemently pursued since 2010. Continue reading “The Spending Review: Short-termism, Ideology and Economic Illiteracy”

Should We Give Grammar Schools Another Try?

There is waste happening all around us – waste of food, waste of money, waste of resources. There is however a deeply saddening waste which is happening under all of our noses. It’s the waste of human talent – hundreds of thousands of young people in our country who do not fulfil their full potential. I’m talking about the so-called “less able” who are not given high expectations, the “more able” who are not challenged further and the cosy middle who are mollycoddled and not stretched beyond their comfort zone. Continue reading “Should We Give Grammar Schools Another Try?”

How do we fill in the Gaps in Education Policy? A Look at the US and the UK.

It almost goes without saying that education is the key to success. But it does still need to be said, because huge achievement gaps in primary and secondary education stubbornly persist in both the United States and the UK. Children from different socioeconomic, ethnic, and geographic backgrounds are simply not awarded the same educational opportunities, a discrepancy that has profound consequences for their chances later in life. This gap is often quantifiable. For example, why is it that in 2008 test scores for black seventeen-year-olds in the US, as opposed to their white seventeen-year-old peers, reflected a difference in learning approximately equivalent to three fewer years of school? Why are there two black Caribbean students for every three white British students in the highest testing tier at age fourteen, even when these students’ test scores at age eleven were equivalent? Clearly, something crucial is missing in the approaches that both countries currently take to educating diverse groups of students. The question that follows is whether current policy is capable of addressing these trends, and, if not, what the most effective and efficient policies might be. Continue reading “How do we fill in the Gaps in Education Policy? A Look at the US and the UK.”

What is the Current Framework Behind Military Exports Regulation in the UK?

At the panel discussion on the global defence industry we tried to understand the framework behind the regulation of military export licenses in the United Kingdom. Professor Trevor Taylor, who is currently working at the Defence Management at the Royal United Services Institute, mainly spoke about the current structure of military export regulations. As he explained, the United Kingdom operates under the European code conduct – or at least in theory. This conduct consists mainly of eight criteria that all the members of the European Union – even the United Kingdom – are required to follow. Continue reading “What is the Current Framework Behind Military Exports Regulation in the UK?”

Transatlantic Trade: A Solution to Economic Stagnation or a Destroyer of European Standards?

TTIP, or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, is an agreement between the US and the EU that emphasizes the depreciation of tariffs and the assuagement of trade regulations. While the deal will promote market accessibility, it will have serious consequences for major trade sectors, including pharmaceuticals, energy, clothing, and finance. Continue reading “Transatlantic Trade: A Solution to Economic Stagnation or a Destroyer of European Standards?”