LeaveHQ, 24/03/2016  

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Freed from the grip of the EU and no longer bound by the “competences” which form part of the treaties, the UK will be free to rebuild its own policies in a wide range of issues, reflecting its new-found position as an independent nation and a global player.

There is no fixed answer to how new or revised policies will emerge, or what their eventual shapes might look like. This will be determined by the democratic processes of our newly-independent nation. However, by way of illustration, as to what might be addressed, and how we might go about forging new policies, we look at some specific areas.

Specifically, we suggest that the UK will need to re-forge an independent foreign policy, from which a more distinctive defence policy might emerge. As to policy currently, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office argues for Britain pursuing “an active and activist foreign policy, working with other countries and strengthening the rules-based international system in support of values”. In this, there is evident a strong element of self-delusion as the FCO continues to assert an independent role. However, outside the EU, this could again become a real objective.

Within that, we might expect European defence co-operation, which has been a central part of UK policy since the termination of hostilities with Germany in 1945, to continue. Traditionally it has been organised via the Atlantic Alliance (NATO), which remains the UK's preferred instrument.

If the EU wants to develop a capability for autonomous action independently of the Atlantic Alliance, Britain could choose on a case-by-case basis as to whether it wants to take part. Cooperation with individual Member States outside the framework of EU treaties can continue – as with the St Malo Declaration on 4 December 1998, when a joint declaration was made by French President Chirac and Prime Minister Tony Blair.

In terms of more general relations, we would expect to retain strong ties with EU Member States, fostering a good neighbour policy. Co-operation could be achieved by reverting to the so-called Gymnich meetings, as a forum for discussing long-term strategies in an informal setting. Participation is not dependent on EU membership.

Use can also be made of what is known as the “open method of coordination” (OMC). This produces “soft law”, most often in the form of opinions, guidelines and codes of best practice. It assists coordination of employment policy, research and development, enterprise and immigration, and social policy

As to overseas aid, an independent UK will have the freedom to make its own policies. It can use aid to pursue our own policy objectives, such as the relief of migratory pressures in a way that will directly or indirectly reduce unwanted immigration to this country.

The UK is committed to spending 0.7 percent of GDP in this area, equivalent to about £12 billion a year. This includes a contribution to the EU aid budget amounting to about £1.4 billion a year (16 percent of the total spend).

The majority of the money directed to the EU (nearly 70 percent) is part of the UK's contribution to the EU's budget, over which it has no control. Recovering this could ensure that it was better spent and the so-called development impact effectively harnessed.

As to the UK's modus operandi, it takes what is called a “selective approach”, working on a limited number of policy areas. It has chosen to focus on anticorruption, transparency, trade and climate change as areas in which to promote the coherence of its policies. Work on anti-corruption has intensified, and work on the environment and climate change has been maintained. In addition, a new cross-government approach is integrating development and security for countries in crisis.

Nevertheless, leaving the EU will not automatically improve UK policy. Inefficiencies will doubtless remain afterwards, unless specific improvements are made. Stopping aid payments to the EU and redirecting them to other areas may be the only immediate effect of withdrawal.

Redirection could, in itself, improve policy coherence. For instance, the UNHCR in 2013 presented a global needs-based budget of US$3,924 million, revised to the unprecedented level of US$5,335 million. Payments to this UN agency instead of the EU could have a measurable effect in reducing migratory pressure.

However, since the evidence suggests a level of incoherence in policy formulation, the development of linkages with other policy areas would in fact be a continuation of what is currently regarded as the “new” approach. In other words, aid policy is so under-developed, both at EU and national level, that improvements in the administration of aid policy are needed before any benefits accrue from leaving the EU.

The next six posts will focus on the following policy areas:

  • Agriculture
  • Fisheries
  • Environment policy
  • Climate change and energy
  • Financial services
  • The digital market


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