12 March 2020 - 14 March 2020

Defining the modern United Kingdom: how can we unite at home and what role do we want to play in the world?

Chair: The Rt Hon the Lord Hill of Oareford CBE


View the event album here

Context and questions

The resounding Conservative victory in last December’s election and the UK’s formal departure from the EU marked an end to one chapter in the Brexit story and the opening of a new one, with new opportunities and risks for a country that remains deeply divided. The aim of this Ditchley discussion was to connect people across a range of these divisions to discuss what kind of country the UK should aspire to be; the opportunities that might be seized; and the risks to be managed. We aimed to look inward at how the UK might organise itself better to reduce inequality of opportunity and to foster more unity; and outwards to the UK’s role in the world.

When we framed the terms for the discussion, no one could have imagined that we would be meeting as a global pandemic was unfolding and that the Prime Minister would be levelling with the nation on the likely loss of loved ones by many families throughout the country in the months ahead. This common looming threat provided a sense of perspective for the group that assembled – a fight in which we are literally “in it together”.


Jonathan, Lord Hill, chaired the discussion as chairman of Ditchley. The impact of the pandemic meant that a number of participants had to cancel at short notice, but the group had some real diversity and different perspectives. This included the north and south of England, left and right, and many different areas of expertise including on technology. Friends from Canada and the EU provided valuable external perspectives. We did not have participants from Scotland and Wales, which was originally high on our agenda, and this should be noted in particular on the discussion on the Union.

Power, agency, honesty and clarity on risks

There was an interesting consensus across divides of opinion that what would determine the future of the UK was who has power and who feels agency – defined as the sense of having power and being willing and able to use it.

Focusing on the UK internally, this led to a discussion of devolution, decentralisation and “de-cluttering”, exploring what it means to have power; to whom it should be devolved or decentralised and how; and why, despite decades of assertions that this should happen, it never really had within England. The latter was an area where we needed to be more honest with ourselves. “De-cluttering” was the term coined for removing unnecessary restrictions and bureaucracy, so as to allow communities to launch their own initiatives and develop their own very local systems.

Looking outwards, we drew distinctions between the kind of influence we hoped to have on the world and the actual likely limits to that influence. Were we really being honest with ourselves about the realities of a G2 world focused on the Pacific and our ability to shape it in any meaningful way? Or on the very limited choices in fact before us on alliances and alignment, which amounted probably to the degree of our alignment with the US?

This said, many of us did see some advantage in a more agile and nimble UK. It was hard to see how a legalistic multi-nation bloc like the EU would be able to adapt at speed to a changing world. Nonetheless, it would be a huge challenge for the UK to maintain enough space for manoeuvre for that agility to matter. We would be confronted with hard choices by one side or another and would not always be able to escape them. We were not yet sufficiently clear or honest on these risks. Another risk was that domestic rhetoric on Brexit on both sides might make the UK-EU divorce bitter and therefore unmanageable.

Power within the UK: the centre and the regions

Although the UK likes to think of itself as freewheeling and pragmatic in nature, and devolution has meant more local powers for Scotland and Wales, the UK remains one of the most centrally governed countries in the world and this is particularly true of England. Managerial bureaucracy was blamed for impersonal government at a distance and a loss of trust between the population and government. Civil servants were said to be “dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good”. The echoes of Brexit were noted. As well as deliberate control by the centre, there was also an accretion of bureaucratic clutter that stifled local initiatives and left people unclear on what they were entitled to do to improve their local area. There was a call for “de-cluttering”, alongside decentralisation and devolution.

Prime Minister Tony Blair was described as having wanted to create a series of city regions with significant devolution of financial powers, but this had been blocked by the Treasury. The Treasury continued to base investment on rates of return which naturally favoured the South East. Although the Treasury had less power than people imagined, it guarded the powers it did have jealously. The logic was understandable: it would be the Treasury that would be held accountable on financial mismanagement and growth. But we were locked into a Catch-22 situation that favoured, overwhelmingly, a continuation of the status quo.

The lack of real substance in terms of financial firepower was seen by many as the reason for the relative lack of popular support and low turnout for local, mayoral and police elections. These new institutions were often seen as additional layers of bureaucracy, creating a local governing class without a real transfer of power and money that would make engagement with them essential.

Those involved in the new government insisted that radical decentralisation remained on the agenda but there were many things that could only be done on a national level that had to come first, for example Brexit negotiations and now fighting the pandemic. Give the government time and action would follow. Others described the latest emergency budget as a classic example of centralised government – huge spending decisions made entirely from the centre that would impact on the regions. The stated ambition, which had won the election, was to get Brexit done and then rebalance the regions. But the instincts at the heart of the government seemed to be to concentrate power, rather than to distribute it; to control rather than to empower.

Real sharing of power meant giving people the right to fail and accepting that they might prefer, politically, local failure to centrally imposed success, for example in management of services.

We debated whether a genuinely federal structure was possible for the United Kingdom with so much of the economic power concentrated in the South East of England. Others saw this as a chicken and egg situation: economic power was concentrated in the South East because that was where the power was. The economy would not become more distributed until power was shared more equally across the country. Canadians noted that Ontario was an outsize constituent of Canada, although nowhere near as dominant as England economically.

For the time being, this meant a difficult dilemma: the regions did not want full fiscal devolution because they could not live off their current tax receipts. Subventions from the richer parts of today’s UK would remain essential whilst tomorrow’s more geographically equal UK was built. This will require a sacrifice of control by the centre, with an acceptance that money transferred may be spent badly. When it came to agency, it was noted that local authorities and Scotland had so far not used the full extent of powers already devolved to raise revenue, for example by increasing council tax. It was sometimes convenient to blame the centre for rising taxation.

Although local receipts were not sufficient for full fiscal decentralisation, the transfer of tax-raising powers to local authorities was seen by some as one element in breaking this logjam. It was noted that in New York, for example, 54 percent of taxes went directly to the mayoralty.

What was happening in the UK was a series of democratic experiments at different scale with the mayor of London commanding a budget of £17 billion and the mayor of North of Tyne, £54 million. In Greater Manchester, the mayor was able to balance money spent on helping the homeless off the streets, £11,000 per person per year, with the social and health costs of caring for them on the streets, £24,000 per person per year. The mayors were meeting to swap notes and to develop best practice but the devolution of power to local regions should by definition mean some regional variation in how power was exercised.

The Brexit slogans, “Take back control” and “Get Brexit Done” had been powerful in winning support in frustrated regions which had voted Labour for years but without seeing the turnaround for which they hoped. If improvements in local conditions did not appear soon then demand could grow for regions to take more control locally.


Our discussions on Scotland and Ireland carry a heavy caveat as no one from Scotland was able in the end to participate and we had limited participation from Ireland.

In Scotland, the demand for greater devolution is already apparent with the election a great success for the nationalists. We debated whether or not devolution so far could be considered a success. It had not, as had been hoped when it was conceived, put an end to the power of nationalism and calls for independence. For the nationalists it was only a point on the way. It also did not appear to have produced, it was argued, better management of government services.

But all this was also immaterial. It had established a new minimum of local control from which the road only led forward. There was no prospect of going back: the three choices possible were defence of the current status quo; fuller devolution on the Basque model; or independence.

Given the issues with Ireland and the decreased value of North Sea oil, the prospect of an independent Scotland in the EU and a long land border between the UK and the EU did not look either particularly economically attractive or practicable. But the drive to independence was about identity and politics, not economics, and there was a significant risk of civil unrest in Scotland if a Westminster government sought to block a second referendum for too long.

A new Act of Union, increasing devolution for Scotland alongside greater powers for other regions, was an interesting idea but also might accelerate further calls for independence, perhaps particularly if Scottish representation in Westminster was reduced.

Northern Ireland

The Brexit deal potentially had major implications for the movement of goods between the mainland and Northern Ireland with some experts estimating significant extra costs per container. The political impact was even more significant with support for a united Ireland growing and even some unionists considering this an option through disillusionment with the UK. Although the Irish civil state and civil service saw little benefit and lots of trouble in potential unification of Ireland, no Irish politician or party would be able to argue against it. Given the strong views of some unionists, a border poll could be accompanied by civil unrest and perhaps worse.

Climate change

Alongside the impact of Brexit, regional inequality and the demand for more local accountability, we discussed the growing demand for radical action on climate change. Was this an issue on which the country could and should lead internationally? And what was the level of support for more radical action?

The generational divide on climate change was apparent amongst our group, with younger participants seeing this as an overwhelming priority. Others, meanwhile, commented on the lack of freedom of speech on climate change, with challenging of the evidence becoming increasingly unacceptable.

Whilst recognising the importance of climate action, divisions of region, class and ethnicity were noted with the more radical parts of the climate change movement often seen as white, middle class and southern. People working in industry – on cars, chemicals, aviation and steel – cared about the planet too but they needed to see plans for action that took account of their need to make a living as we transitioned away from carbon intensive industries.

A parallel with Brexit was developing with a significant silent minority, often male, building up resentment on climate change. It was no accident that Nigel Farage was looking to reinvent himself as the spokesman for this section of the populace. Government moves on fuel or road pricing could meet a gilet jaune-style response from haulage drivers and others. Looking to lead on climate change could bring credit abroad and in the metropolis, but trouble in the regions.

Technology and democracy

Technology was seen as both part of the problem and part of the solution. Online platforms, particularly those allowing anonymity, had reintroduced the mob into politics. The trolling of politicians, especially of women, was driving good people out of politics and deterring others from entering. Some form of governmental regulation was inevitable: the challenge was to do it well.

Here too, though, there needed to be more honesty about what power and agency we would have as a single country outside the UK and on the choices to be made. There was little prospect of the US, the EU or China changing their approach to technology companies and data on the basis of UK interests or views alone. We could, of course, align ourselves with measures that any of these blocs took, or offer up ideas and lobby for them, but we would not be the decision makers. If we chose to block or otherwise constrain the platforms of American technology companies, this would feed into trade negotiations. We would have no influence over the development of Europe’s approach to GDPR and clearly no leverage over China’s approach to technology other than through soft power and thought leadership. We might find ourselves stretched between diverging technological and regulatory superpowers, struggling to find a middle ground.

 We did, however, have significant agency and choices on how we shaped political debate online in the UK and the use of data. We could also insist on algorithmic transparency in our own systems as AI automations are woven into government and corporate processes.

There was little challenge to the sense that the UK’s economic future lay in making the most of technology. This would require careful management of the impact of AI and automation on work and society.

The Monarchy

Her Majesty the Queen, and the general respect for her long and steady reign, were powerful factors in maintaining the Union. The death of the Queen would be a significant shock to the country and perhaps to the Union. This would need to be part of the planning for maintaining the Union. The monarchy also remained a powerful representative of the UK abroad, generating interest and access despite setbacks.

The UK’s role in the world

Overseas development aid

The UK spends £15 billion a year on development aid and China £22 billion on the Belt and Road Initiative. Even accounting for all the other ways in which China invests in influence abroad, the disparity in the level of attention and influence resulting from these investments was striking. There was close to consensus in this group that ODA could be legitimately much more closely tied to the promotion of British foreign policy interests than at present. One target could be climate change action in the developing world for example. ODA should perhaps be thought of as an element in hard power rather than soft power.

Multilateral networks

No one seemed to see any upside for the UK in withdrawing from the international networks and organisation in which it had a strong role, ranging from the UN Security Council, NATO and WTO to the Commonwealth. The international order, somewhat battered though it was, offered some valuable guardrails for a middle-size power like the UK.

Soft power

The UK’s reputation for upholding the rule of law, intellectual property and regulatory standards remained well respected internationally, including in China, and was a strength to which we should continue to play. Universities, the BBC, arts and media and sport were all areas in which the UK excelled and should aim to continue to do so to drive interest in the UK and inward investment.

All the above seemed a straightforward continuation. More difficult was the exercise of hard power in the protection of interests in a world dominated by two superpowers locked in geostrategic competition and where decent relations with both powers, unlike in the Cold War, would be essential to British prosperity.

Hard power

The UK spends roughly the same as Russia on defence and national security capabilities but, nuclear weapons aside, does not have anything like the same power of deterrence or perceived impact abroad. Reactions to this varied. Some saw this as just the way things are: the UK is no longer capable of initiating wars or fighting them on its own and we should just adjust to that and double down on a rules-based world order. Others saw a need to reassert international belief in our political will and capability to take action to defend our core interests when necessary – in this context we should look for the right, well judged, opportunity to use an element of our hard power. Going beyond this, one or two people wanted the UK to join wholeheartedly with the US in pushing back against resurgent authoritarian powers like Russia and China. The challenge to this view from the broader group was that the UK would then pay the economic price for this stance, whilst the US, more autonomous as a superpower, would look to its own economic interests and make its own tactical deals without consultation with us. There was also little confidence that US gratitude to the UK for symbolic military support could be translated into economic gains through a trade deal or investment.

A “Global Hanseatic League”

One concept that got some traction was for the UK to join forces with other democratic middle power countries, with the focus on Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Chile, as a kind of global Hanseatic League. There was debate, though, as to whether this could amount to more than a series of ad hoc alliances on specific crises or issues. This pragmatic approach was certainly one option for the UK, but it was questioned as to the degree to which this was in any way a substitute for either a close relationship with the EU or a closer economic relationship with the US. If neither of these was pursued by the government or proved impossible for whatever reason, then this sort of loose and informal grouping could certainly be useful.

The US and China

It was clear that if the UK had to choose between our security relations with the US and economic relations with China, we would have to choose the US as the UK’s essential ally. Our interests lay in avoiding having to make this choice but ultimately, we might not have that luxury.

We had navigated the Huawei decision but even that remained a running issue, with the US encouraging the revolt of Conservative MPs against the policy. More forward-leaning engagement of China as practiced under the government of Prime Minister David Cameron, with the UK’s joining of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank against US wishes an example, would be unlikely to be tolerated by future US administrations, whether Republican or Democrat. Even if President Trump were not to be re-elected, we should expect the US to look eastwards more and to be more insistent on US interests.

China, meanwhile, was becoming yet more transactional and assertive. Access to Chinese markets and Chinese investment would depend on the extent to which the UK was seen as complying or otherwise with US demands on allies for pressure on China. Sending an aircraft carrier to the South China Seas would be greatly welcomed by the US and might contribute to the western push back against China’s assertion of power in the region. But it would hardly be likely to contribute to Chinese inward investment into the UK or trade with China.

There were doubts that a trade deal with the US would amount to much economically beyond the political impact, with an increase to British GDP of 0.07 percent estimated to be the result. Greater convergence and alignment on technology and finance might bring bigger benefits and inward investment but this did not require a trade deal.

Brexit and the EU

Both sides risked a damaging rupture by playing rhetorically to their own side. This had to be avoided. For all the talk of independent positions, on many international issues the UK and the EU had identical views and similar values. It made deep sense for the UK and the EU to continue to coordinate on security policy. If it played its cards right, the UK could remain a shaper rather than a taker of European policy. In time, the UK should be involved in the frameworks being proposed by President Macron, such as a European Security Council and the European Intervention Initiative. Coordination through NATO on its own was not sufficient, seemed to be the general view, although NATO remained vital for the UK and the continent’s security.

There was a strong sense, though, that achieving deep coordination on security and foreign policy in the short term was impossible and, worse than that, risked strategic matters getting caught up in a bitter negotiation over trade. In this context, it was better for the two sides to concentrate on getting a decent economic deal done, with a ramp onto a road to more strategic negotiations and engagement on foreign policy over the next seven to ten years.

Achieving even a slender, limited economic deal in a year was always going to be a challenge and now, with coronavirus dominating governments’ outlooks, looked harder still. There was a risk that the deal would be so slender as to be politically unattractive. It was noted that a no-deal Brexit had been rebranded as an “Australian-style deal”. There was no settled view in the government on what this meant – some continued to want no deal. Some even saw weakening the EU as a continuation of the traditional British policy of opposing the emergence of a dominant power on the continent. Others wanted to use the prospect of no deal, and British willingness to accept this, as leverage to get a better deal.

The EU had its own red lines, however. The French were insisting on a highly structured deal with each element linked to the other in order to lock the UK into commitments. The British wanted each element to stand independently. There was a long way to go and little time.

It seemed unlikely, even to those most committed to strong relations with the EU, that we would be able to achieve a fully rounded relationship in the short term. The best scenario looked to be divorce, a cooling off period, and then the rediscovery of shared interests and values. Of course, we would have to work against losing the habit of working with the EU. We would be looking through the glass from the outside in.

The UK’s choices over which we have real agency are: do we risk souring relations with EU partners or do we seek to preserve them? Do we move significantly towards regulatory alignment with the US, further damaging our prospects of a friendly deal with the EU, or do we stay where we are? Do we accept EU strictures that might constrain our development of relationships with new markets in Asia or do we insist on no such strictures? Do we try to make common cause with other unattached powers such as in the above proposal for a “global Hanseatic League”? For most of these choices there was an opposite and equal counter reaction. We would need to be good at connecting the dots. President Trump might enjoy denigrating the EU but the same was not true of Congress, and the EU had its own networks in the US through the Irish and others.


Completely unexpectedly, the first major test for the UK’s post-Brexit government is to face what may possibly become the country’s biggest challenge since the Second World War. The EU has so far not done particularly well on a cohesive response. A communications gaff by European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde suggested a lack of commitment to stricken Italy’s remaining in the Eurozone, spooking markets further. But, although there was a good degree of variation in how different European countries were tackling the crisis, there was also a common theme of early draconian action. This was also the case in the Far East and increasingly now in the United States.

The world was watching the somewhat contrasting British response with a mixture of admiration, interest and alarm. An outlier nation led by an outlier Prime Minister was going its own way on coronavirus, with markedly milder measures than almost anywhere else in the world and a determination to keep calm and carry on, only introducing stronger measures as the scientists and computer models judged necessary. The focus on science, and the upfront role of government scientists, was noted and contrasted with the US. But the great medical and political risks of an independent line were not lost on anyone

If the UK’s approach proved successful, the country would be in a better place than many to pick up the pieces in the global economy and its stock and reputation would rise significantly. If criticism of the British government’s softer approach was proved right, and the death toll and disruption was in excess of other countries, then we would see a harsh reaction domestically, internationally and probably in the markets. There were many lives at stake and more besides.


This Note reflects the Director’s personal impressions of the conference. No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression.


CHAIR:  The Rt Hon. the Lord Hill of Oareford CBE
Life Peer, House of Lords; Senior Advisor, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (2017-); Independent National Director, Times Newspapers; Senior Adviser, UBS; Senior Adviser, Deloitte; Trustee, Teach First; Board Member, Centre for Policy Studies. Formerly: European Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union (2014-16); Leader of the House of Lords and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (2013-14); Undersecretary of State for Schools (2010-13). Chairman of the Council of Management of The Ditchley Foundation.


Dr Lise Butler 
Lecturer in Modern History, City, University of London.

Ms Sarah Fountain Smith 
Deputy High Commissioner for Canada to the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland (2017‑). Formerly: Assistant Deputy Minister, Global Issues and Development, Global Affairs Canada (2016‑17); Director General, International Organizations, Global Affairs Canada (2012‑16); Governor, Board of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) (2013‑15); Ambassador to Chile (2009‑12); Director, Canada‑U.S. relations (2007‑09). A Member of the Ditchley Foundation Programme Committee.

Mrs Ayesha Malette 
Senior Policy Advisor, Privy Council Office, Ottawa; Vice President, Canadian International Council. Formerly: 2015‑2016 Action Canada Fellow.

His Excellency Joâo Vale de Almeida 
European Union Ambassador to the United Kingdom (2020‑). Formerly: European Union Ambassador to the United Nations (2015‑20); European Union Ambassador to the United States (2010‑14); Director General for External Relations, European Commission (2009‑10); EU Sherpa for G8 and G20 Summits (2005‑10); Head of Cabinet for European Commission President José Manuel Barroso (2004‑09); Deputy Chief Spokesman of the European Commission.

Dr Ruth Dudley Edwards 
Historian, crime novelist and political commentator; author of, amongst others: 'True Brits: inside the Foreign Office', 'The Pursuit of Reason: The Economist 1843‑1993', 'The Faithful Tribe: an intimate portrait of the loyal institutions' and 'The Seven: the lives and legacies of the founding fathers of the Irish Republic'.

Mr Hamish Birrell 
Public policy correspondent, The Economist.

Dr Simon Case CVO 
Private Secretary to HRH The Duke of Cambridge, Kensington Palace (2018‑). Formerly: Director General Northern Ireland and Ireland, Department for Exiting the European Union (2018); Director General for the UK‑EU Partnership, UK Permanent Representation to the European Union (2017‑18); Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister (2016‑17); UK Sherpa for the G7 and the G20; Director, Strategic Policy and External Relations, Government Communications Headquarters; Director General, Implementation Group, Cabinet Office.

Ms Pamela Dow 
Director, The Cabinet Office (2019‑); Board member: Policy Exchange; Weidenfeld Hoffman Trust; Code4000; London Village Network; co‑founder and host, De Beauvoir Debates; co‑founder, Beyond Bars. Formerly: Chief Reform Officer, Catch22, London; Director of Strategy, Ministry of Justice (2015‑16); Principal Private Secretary (and other roles), Department for Education (2007‑14); Director of Operations, Tech City UK; public affairs and corporate communications consultant (including Edelman London).

Mayor Jamie Driscoll 
Mayor for the North of Tyne, North of Tyne Combined Authority (2019‑). Formerly: Councillor, Monument electoral ward, Newcastle City Council.

Mr Peter Foster 
Incoming Public Policy Editor, The Financial Times (April 2020); The Telegraph: Europe Editor (2015‑20); US Editor (2012‑15); Beijing correspondent; New Delhi correspondent; author, 'Facing Facts: Is Britain's power diminishing?' (examining Britain's future role in the world with Project for the Understanding of the 21st Century, a Reuters‑backed think‑tank) (2015).

Mr Nick Gardham FRSA 
CEO, Community Organisers, Warminster; advisor on citizen participation and community organising to government departments including: Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Home Office, Cabinet Office and Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG); member, MHCLG Communities Partnership Board; Democracy Ambassador for Cabinet Office; TeachFirst Ambassador ('06 Participant).

Mr David Goodhart 
Head of the Demography, Immigration and Integration Unit, Policy Exchange; author: 'The Road to Somewhere: The New Value Divides in UK Politics' (Penguin, 2017) and 'The British Dream'. Formerly: Founder (1995) and Editor, 'Prospect' magazine; Director, Demos; Bonn Correspondent, The Financial Times (1988‑91).

Mr Charles Grant CMG 
Co‑Founder and Director, Centre for European Reform (1996‑); international advisory boards: Moscow School of Civic Education; EDAM (Turkish think tank) and Terra Nova (French think tank). Formerly: Board Member and Trustee, British Council (2002‑08); Defence Editor and Brussels Correspondent, The Economist. Chairman of the Programme Committee (2012‑), a Member of the Council of Management and a Governor, The Ditchley Foundation.

Dr Catherine Howe 
Director of Design, Delivery and Change, Cancer Research UK, London (2018‑); board of trustees, Centre for Public Scrutiny (2017‑); Governor, The Democratic Society (2010‑). Formerly: Digital Innovation Director, Capita (2015‑18); Governor, Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (2011‑17).

Sir Simon Jenkins FRSL FSA
Columnist: The Guardian (2005‑); BBC Correspondent; author, 'Mission Accomplished? The Crisis of International Intervention' (2015). Formerly: Chairman, The National Trust (2008‑14); Columnist, The Sunday Times (2005‑08) (1986‑90); Columnist, The Times (1992‑2005); Editor, The Times (1990‑92); Political Editor, The Economist (1979‑86); Editor, The Evening Standard (1976‑78).

Mr Dominic Lawson 
Principal leader page columnist, The Sunday Times (2008‑) and The Daily Mail (2013‑); author, 'The Inner Game'; President (elected), English Chess Federation (2014‑). Formerly: Editor, The Sunday Telegraph; Editor, The Spectator; presenter of several series of 'Why I Changed My Mind' and of 'Across the Board', BBC Radio 4.

The Rt Hon. Sir David Lidington KCB CBE 
Chair‑designate, Royal United Services Institute (July 2020‑). Formerly: Member of Parliament (Cons) for Aylesbury (1992‑2019); Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (2018‑19); Leader of the House of Commons and Lord Chancellor (2016‑17); Secretary of State for Justice; Minister of State for Europe (2010‑16); Shadow Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (2007‑10); Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (2003‑07).

Dr David Maguire 
British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Education in the Criminal Justice System, University of London; Project Director, Building Futures, Prison Reform Trust. Formerly: Lecturer in criminology, Oxford Brookes; two decades working across homelessness and housing, mainstream and alternative education and the youth and adult prison estate.

The Rt Hon. the Lord Mandelson 
Life Peer, House of Lords; Chairman, Global Counsel LLP, London; Chair, board of trustees, Design Museum (2017‑); Chancellor, Manchester Metropolitan University (2016‑). Formerly: First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and Lord President of the Council (2009‑10); Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (2008‑09); Commissioner for Trade, European Commission, Brussels (2004‑08); Member of Parliament (Labour) for Hartlepool (1992‑2004); Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1999‑2001); Secretary of State for Trade & Industry (1998); Minister without Portfolio, Cabinet Office (1997‑98). A Member of the Council of Management and a Governor of The Ditchley Foundation.

Mr Paul Nowak 
Deputy General Secretary, Trades Union Congress (TUC), London (2013‑); Member, ACAS Council (2011‑); Member, Strategic Trade Advisory Council (2019 ‑). Formerly: Head, Organisation and Services Department, TUC; TUC Regional Secretary in the North East and Cumbria; TUC National Organiser.

Mr Akash Paun 
Senior Fellow, Institute for Government, London (leading research on the impact of Brexit on the Union and the history and performance of devolution in all parts of the UK) (2008‑); editor, 'Has Devolution Worked?' (2019); author, 'A second independence referendum: When and how could Scotland vote again?' Formerly: Expert Adviser, British Academy; Researcher, Constitution Unit, University College London.

The Rt Hon. the Baroness Prashar of Runnymede CBE 
Life Peer (Cross‑Bench), House of Lords (1999‑); President, Community Foundation Network; President, National Literacy Trust, Non‑Executive Director, Nationwide Building Society (2017‑). Formerly: Member, House of Lords European Union Select Committee (2014‑18); Chair, European Union Home Affairs Sub‑Committee (2014‑18); Member, Iraq Inquiry (2009‑16); Deputy Chairman, British Council (2013‑18); President, Royal Commonwealth Society; President, UK Council for International Student Affairs; Non‑Executive Director, ITV (2005‑10); Chair, Judicial Appointments Commission (2006‑10); First Civil Service Commissioner (2000‑05); Chairman, National Literacy Trust (2000‑05); Chairman, The Parole Board (1997‑2000). An Honorary Governor, The Ditchley Foundation.

Mr James Rogers 
Director, Global Britain Programme, The Henry Jackson Society; Editor‑in‑Chief, 'The British Interest'. Formerly: Baltic Defence College, Tartu, Estonia: Acting Dean (2016), Director, Department of Political and Strategic Studies (2015‑17), Lecturer in International Relations (2012‑15); Visiting Fellow (2008) then Associate Fellow (2013), European Union Institute for Security Studies, Paris; research projects for Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre, Ministry of Defence; RAND Europe; Egmont Institute and European Council on Foreign Relations.

Mr Roy Sefa‑Attakora 
Duke of Cambridge Scholar, Master of Public Policy Candidate, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford. Formerly: Advisory Committee member, Youth Justice Board for England and Wales (2017‑19); Industrial Placement, Nomura International Plc, European Regulation 'MiFID II' Division (2017‑18).

Ms Handan Wieshmann 
Senior Advisor, Behavioural Insights Team, London. Formerly: Advisor, Economic and Domestic Secretariat, UK Cabinet Office; Department for Business Innovation and Skills; Home Office.

Ms Suzanne Ferlic Johnson  
Vice President, Corporate and External Affairs, Lloyd's Register, London. Formerly: Enron, London and Houston; Manager of Fixed Income, responsible for European utilities, Schroder Investment Management; Special Assistant to Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations. A Governor of The Ditchley Foundation.

Ms Jasmine Stoltzfus 
Fulbright Scholar; MA Candidate in Global Security and Borders, Queen's University, Belfast; Council for Christians and Jews, Northern Ireland (2020). Formerly: Immigration Paralegal, San Francisco (2017‑19); Intern, Center for International Migration and Integration, Jerusalem (2017); Interfaith Representative and Moderator, University of California, Davis (2016‑17); Intern, Davis AB 540 and Undocumented Student Center, California (2016).