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

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Loughborough University in London


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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Description Brexit cafe: stakeholder engagement activity, 1 February 2019, Loughborough University London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Around 20 people attended this Brexit cafe. The Mayor of Hackney Phillip Glanville opened the event and took part. It was professionally facilitated and a written record was kept of all participants' comments and views, as recorded contemporaneously. These findings will contribute to academic research to follow at the end of the project. Participants were asked to address, on tables hosted by members of the research project, 3 questions as follows:

1. What are your foremost feelings about Brexit?
2. How do you think Brexit will impact on your local community or organisation?
3. What do you hope the UK-EU relationship will look like in 5 years' time?

The conversations lasted over the course of the next 2 hours, and participants reported gratitude at the opportunity to hear others' views in a non-conflictual setting.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Brexit cafe: stakeholder engagement event, 13 July 2018 at Loughborough University, Leicestershire. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The 28+ Perspective on Brexit project, part of the UK in a Changing Europe initiative, organised a "Brexit Café" in the East Midlands, providing a platform for deep and meaningful conversations about Brexit for civil society stakeholders in the region.

Special guest was Rt. Hon. Nicky Morgan, MP for Loughborough. Away from the Westminster and Brussels bubbles, Loughborough University hosted this version of the World Café format, an event designed to facilitate respectful 'conversations that matter' amongst participants.

Almost 50 participants representing a wide variety of business, NGOs, charities, higher education institutions and other civil society stakeholders took place in a very refreshing evening of common conversations about Brexit.

The participants were invited to discuss three questions in rounds of around 15 minutes each: What are your foremost thoughts about Brexit? How do you think Brexit will affect you professionally? And how do you hope the UK-EU relationship will look in five years' time?

The "Brexit Café" adapts the world café model to encourage meaningful, calm and reflective conversations on Brexit, where participants are required not just to express their views, but to pay attention to others trying to join dots and create new patterns of thoughts.

It is designed to generate much needed calm debate and exchange of views in an issue that has certainly divided people across the country. At the end of the three rounds of conversations there is time for "harvesting", so a common discussion of the most important ideas emerges that is then reproduced visually in flipcharts through doodles, post it notes or simple short messages.

Three words seemed to dominate the Brexit café in Loughborough: confusion, discussion and uncertainty. Participants in the event shared different views on Brexit, but most were worried by the uncertainty of what lies ahead.

A lack of clear political leadership to take the country forward was often cited as one of the reasons for that uncertain future. The disruptive nature of Brexit was also highlighted in the conversations amongst the participants, most of whom seemed to agree that there are still very divided and controversial opinions about Brexit around the country.

The economy, and in particular the East Midlands economy, was very much part of the debate. Here one could see a clear differentiation between small local business and larger companies with production plants and headquarters in the region.

The divergence concerned the perceived impact of Brexit on the economy. Whereas some participants argued that the globalised nature of the economy means Brexit will hit badly many of the local companies in the Midlands, others considered that the local economy is robust and diverse and should be able to survive in any event.

One point where both sides agreed, though, was the need for clarity to enable short and long-term planning and to avoid problems in the future.

One of the refreshing features of a (rather warm) evening was the development of deep and mature conversations around Brexit, with arguments both in favour and against it.

The Brexit Café format clearly favoured and facilitated much needed dialogue, which is in itself already a positive development. However, there was a clear feeling of anxiety, fear of the unknown and, to some extent, regret of what is happening around the country because of the Brexit referendum.

Looking into the future, participants tried to remain optimistic. Most were clearly in favour of a close relationship with the European Union, although there was no common agreement on what shape that relationship should take.

Beyond the vagaries of the economy, conversations about the future were underpinned by concerns about the divisions created in British society, future national identity and, especially, the impact that Brexit could have amongst the younger generation.

Rt. Hon. Nicky Morgan, MP for Loughborough, attended the Brexit Café and closed proceedings on the evening by thanking all the participants for their views and opinions. She highlighted that it is "very useful to listen to other people's views as to why they voted the way they did".

The point that struck her the most in the conversations was that "[our country] needs to be better in the future, whatever better looks like". There is a need to engage in conversations about the shape of this future; at the moment, people do not to talk to each other and are stuck on their views about Brexit, Nicky Morgan added.

This edition of the "Brexit Café" demonstrated that the format adapted to the reality of Brexit by the 28+ Perspectives on Brexit project team is an innovative and different way of generating conversations on such a divisive issue.

As Nicky Morgan pointed out, Brexit is a topic on which real conversations that acknowledge others' opinions do not always take place, and she added: "I wish we had events like this before the Referendum".

(Written after the event by co-investigator, Dr Borja Garcia, Brexit research investigator for the 28 Perspective on Brexit team at The UK in a Changing Europe. Published at https://ukandeu.ac.uk/brexit-cafe-in-the-east-midlands-conversations-amid-the-confusion/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://ukandeu.ac.uk/brexit-cafe-in-the-east-midlands-conversations-amid-the-confusion/
Description Briefing on project research by co-investigator Dr Geogiadou to Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Midlands, 12 February 2019. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Co-investigator presented audience with emerging findings from the project and answered questions. Discussions begun on future focus groups with regional small and medium-sized enterprises to explore the impact of Brexit on their specific sectors.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019