28+ perspectives on Brexit: a guide to the multi-stakeholder negotiations

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Politics, History & International Rel


This project proposes to inform the Brexit negotiations in real time via up-to-date, research-informed knowledge about the EU Member States' Brexit positions and the Brussels negotiating environment.

The task in the months ahead for any policy-maker or researcher is not just to identify the interests and positions of the EU member states, but, crucially, to understand how these will be amalgamated to produce the EU's interests and strategies in the Brexit negotiations. The knowledge to be generated, transferred and disseminated in this proposal will, accordingly, take two main forms. First, via qualitative research methods, the project will track the Brexit negotiating positions and in particular the 'red lines' of selected member states (Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy) which during the project lifespan (April 2017 to September 2018) are due to hold national elections. The countries have in common a potentially strong presence of populist parties with a Eurosceptic agenda, and our specific contribution will be to offer a framework for understanding the pressures of populist parties on the member states' Brexit negotiating positions (and in particular on the drawing of their 'red lines'). We will draw on existing academic literatures and add findings from new fieldwork conducted in real time during these electoral contests.

Second, the project will draw on existing understandings of how 'Brussels' (not only the Council of the EU but also European Commission and the European Parliament) typically aggregates national preferences, in order to show the forces at work behind the formation of the EU's negotiating position following the invoking of Article 50. The research here will principally constitute a synthesis and commentary of state-of-the art academic research, with particular reference to the emerging field of the role of emotions in diplomatic and multi-stakeholder negotiations. Limited additional fieldwork (a review of official documents by Member States and institutions) conducted in real-time during the project will consolidate this meta-analysis.

This project proposes to build a dynamic knowledge base on these subjects for transfer to a maximum number and broadest diversity of stakeholders in real time, and also for future use by policy-makers and other Brexit stakeholders. As such, the project will operate on the guiding principle of 'open science' which aims to 'make research more open, global, collaborative, creative and closer to society' (https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/open-science). In particular, it will engage in a systematic and rolling exercise of stakeholder identification and needs analysis with the support of the project partners and in conjunction with the UK in a Changing Europe evidence hub. This will enable the project to construct a living map of interested stakeholders and their needs, designed to chart a dynamic reality, and to be made publicly available to benefit policy makers and other users, as per our commitment outlined above. With the support of its partners, the project will also generate multi-media information for wider dissemination via a diversity of interventions. The team of investigators itself is designed for resilience and to build capacity into the project, the Brexit environment, and the academic profession. It is multi-generational, multi-disciplinary and multi-skilled and is housed in a stable and supportive UK higher educational institution (Loughborough University). Loughborough has been a hub of expertise in European Studies since 1973 and principal investigator Drake is currently holder of a European Commission Jean Monnet Chair award (2013-17) in European integration. Many PhD alumni from Loughborough are currently working in professional capacities relevant to this proposal, and Hardacre and Pomorska are included in this bid in partner and consultancy roles.

Planned Impact

This proposal is explicitly designed to account for a specificity of Brexit, namely the multiplicity of the number and type of potential stakeholders, defined here as those individuals and organisations who stand to be affected, directly or indirectly, by the outcomes of Brexit in the short, medium and long terms. Accordingly, our pathway to impact is characterised by a commitment to widen the net as far as possible in terms of who we can expect to reach, engage and influence by the transfer of the knowledge generated by the proposed project.

First, we have devised a strategic method for doing so that builds not only on the investigators and their skills and experience, but on a carefully-chosen team of partners and consultants; this is the generation and ongoing updating of a live stakeholder map. Second, we have been guided in our planned activities and outputs by an understanding of 'impact' as a multi-dimensional process where 'one size does not fit all', but where knowledge is best transferred to a maximum of end-users by targeted and specific activities and interventions (see below). Third, we start from the clear expectation that one critical success factor of the project is a collaborative relationship with the UK in a Changing Europe initiative and in particular its director, Professor Anand Menon. Fourth, we anticipate a 'snowball' effect from our planned activities and outputs, whereby those stakeholders and other end users who we reach will amplify our impact through the mobilisation of their own networks and resources.

Despite the open-ended and uncertain nature of the Brexit negotiations as referred to above, we have nevertheless, for practical purposes, classified our potential end-users with reference to the type of impact that researchers can expect from their knowledge and its transfer, and the concrete means of doing so (people-based, problem-solving or community-based). By way of example, impact can be for primarily economic or political purposes, and be expected to engage end users who prioritise the instrumentalisation of knowledge for specific and direct ends (such as policy-making). Here, we anticipate direct engagement with UK diplomatic and political Brexit stakeholders (e.g. DexEU), informed by input from their equivalents in Brussels and other EU member states, by way of a workshop to be held at Loughborough University's London-based Academy for Diplomacy and International Governance. Impact can also take a more diffuse and conceptual character whereby the aim is to support paradigm-shifting understandings, and here we envisage a facilitated training and learning intervention with socio-economic-type actors affected by Brexit; informed by our wide understanding of Brexit, and in order to provide an innovative feature to our paths to impact, such actors actors can be drawn from sectors of high socio-cultural importance, such as the sports, audiovisual and financial/business sectors. To that extent our pathways to impact are well aligned with the expertise of the project team, as well as with the reputation of Loughborough University. That combination shall enhance the impact potential of the project. Finally, we intend to generate impact at the broader societal level (general public and educational sectors) of both conceptual and capacity-building type by means of a learning intervention (based on policy simulation and negotiations educational tools) based at the Loughborough main or London campus, where the target audience will include university educators and students.


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