The UK needs to raise its game if it wants to remain influential in Europe.
The UK and the EU will need to work together to deal with shared problems such as climate change and terrorism. The UK will also want to shape EU rules on data and health and safety standards that will affect it after Brexit.
Ministers will find it much harder to have real influence in the EU when they are no longer ‘in the room’, and will need to commit effort and resources to achieve their goals. Simply relying on the formal meetings set out in the Political Declaration will not be enough to give the UK the sway it needs.
This report, based on more than 60 interviews with diplomats from other non-EU countries who have experience of the barriers the UK will face, as well as UK government officials and business representatives, argues that the government needs to:
- Work to shape those global trade, financial and climate rules that will become binding on the EU. The EU is a big player in many international organisations, like the World Trade Organization, but it is also increasingly influenced by them. The government must decide where it wants to work with the EU. It should also try to influence those global rules that will become binding on the UK and EU.
- Increase spending. Unless the Foreign Office can offer competitive salaries, it will struggle to attract top civil servants to EU postings. The government also needs to make sure British embassies have the resources they need to host delegations and put on events.
- Lobby the EU institutions. The UK will no longer be able to rely on votes and vetoes in Brussels. It will need to court diplomats from the EU and other countries and maintain relationships with all EU institutions.
- Work closely with business and NGOs to promote British interests. Business and civil society actively lobby the EU and can help build relations with EU governments where the UK government cannot.
- Take the devolved administrations into account when deciding the UK’s objectives. The government should also encourage the continued participation of the devolved administrations, Parliament, local authorities and cities in European initiatives.