18 March 2021 - 19 March 2021

Europe and the UK: building a new partnership after Brexit

Terms of Reference

The first phase of Brexit is done. The UK has left the European Union and a new treaty agreed by both sides is in place. But the long-term consequences of Brexit are just emerging. The UK will need to decide in the coming months, years and decades how far it is in its interests to diverge from norms set by the EU across a range of fields and the EU will have to decide to what standards it will hold the UK in complying with those norms, and what penalties it will seek to impose for divergence.

Geopolitically, the major democracies of Europe and the UK will need to make common cause to stand against authoritarianism, subversion, terrorism and a potential nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Global challenges, from climate change to uncontrolled migration, threaten both the EU and the UK. Everyone will be spending the next decade or more recovering from the impact of this pandemic and preparing for the next. The United States meanwhile will be switching from enthusiastic support for Brexit to solid support for multilateral institutions, but the US’ long term direction remains to be reasserted and solidified. This Ditchley conference will explore what kind of new relationships the UK and the EU and European states individually should aim to build and what risks they will need to manage.

Economic competition and cooperation

The new trade agreement allows for tariff free trade between the EU and the UK but introduces new non-tariff third country procedures for imports and exports and is largely silent on services. The UK does not face automatic penalties for divergence from the level playing field insisted on by the EU but the prospect of a cost for even managed divergence is clear. How can the UK and European states manage divergence in the best interests of both sides? Is the UK likely to want to diverge much and in what fields? How will industrial policy develop on both sides of the channel?

What are the prospects for cooperation on science, technology and innovation between the UK and European counterparts? To what extent will the City of London retain its role as the premier financial centre in Europe (including capital markets, foreign exchange and listing of companies) and what are the implications for the UK and for the EU and European states?

What are the prospects for trade agreements with third parties that bring the UK and the EU back together, for example with the United States and Transatlantic partners or with China? How can the UK and the EU best cooperate on the economic opportunity and challenge of China?

Geopolitical, defence and security cooperation

How can the UK and European states best cooperate to strengthen NATO and to support the US in upholding essential western and democratic interests against authoritarian challenge? Science and technological innovation and cyber power are set to form the core of modern defence: how can the UK and the EU, and other partners, work together to develop powerful joint capabilities? How can strategic nuclear and more traditional defence cooperation be sustained? Western societies are likely to face innovative hybrid threats below the threshold of war: how can the UK and the EU support each in other in the face of information warfare and the attempted manipulation of democratic processes?

Shared regional and global challenges

Both the UK and the EU are committed to playing a leading role in combatting climate change. How can the UK and EU work together with other partners to make COP 26 a turning point? How can we build effective development cooperation in Africa in particular to grow local economies, to help improve security and to head off the prospects of mass uncontrolled migration northwards in response to climate change?

Shared values, identity politics and territorial integrity

The UK and Europe have always offered complementary approaches to democracy, freedoms and human rights: how can the combined soft power of the English-speaking world and continental democracies be strengthened through education, the media and entertainment?

Unravelling the complex map of European nation states is opposed by all central governments in Europe. How can devolution of power to local communities  be combined with territorial stability? Should the EU be a neutral bystander on the question of the unity of the United Kingdom or an advocate for the status quo and stability, lest a dissolution of the United Kingdom catalyse separatist movements in Europe?