Conference Agenda

Session
Panel 509: Learning from Brexit?
Time:
Tuesday, 03/Sep/2019:
1:05pm - 2:35pm

Session Chair: Monika Brusenbauch Meislova, Masaryk University Brno
Location: Anfiteatro 8

Presentations

The Days after Brexit: UK Perceptions on April 2019

Angélica Szucko

University of Brasília - UnB, Brazil

According to the European Union exit procedure established on the Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the parties have up to two years from the official departure communication to negotiate a withdrawal agreement and set the basis for a future relationship. Thus, the Brexit term ends officially on March 29th,2019. A transition period until December 2020 has already been negotiated, however, there are a lot of uncertainties on the way. The main purpose of this paper is to present the results of the field research which will be held in London in the period after the likely departure of the UK from EU. This research trip, funded by a UACES scholarship, have the intention of locally monitoring the perception and reaction of the British population during the official exit process from the EU. The main question that instigates the research is: “Which are the British perceptions of the Brexit?” The interviews carried out with experts on the subject, politicians, and representants of social movements, as well as the observation in loco of street manifestations and protests, would enable to trace some conclusions about the immediate perceptions of the British population about the Brexit. As an ongoing process, this paper also intends to assess the expectations regarding the future relationship with the community bloc among the British scholars and politicians. Thus, this research expects to contribute to the understanding of a recent phenomenon that impacts the whole European integration process.



Can’t Get No Learning: The Brexit Fiasco through the Lens of Policy Learning

Claudio M. Radaelli1, Scott James2, Claire A Dunlop3

1University College London, United Kingdom; 2King's College, London; 3University of Exeter

It seems paradoxical to argue that theories of policy failure and theories of learning converge on the explanation of the same outcome. Failure points to unsuccessful episodes and fiascos, whilst learning is often associated with improvement and success. Yet, the Brexit as policy fiasco connects with the recent approaches linking four varieties of policy learning (Dunlop and Radaelli, 2013, 2018) to policy pathologies. In the aftermath the June 2016 referendum, a coherent policy on the UK’s withdrawal could have emerged through learning. But it didn’t; drawing on interviews with UK civil servants and process tracing we explain this failure to learn. The option of learning in epistemic mode was blocked by contestation and controversies within and between expert groups, which made it difficult to establish the credibility of knowledge. If anything, knowledge and access to knowledge became the territory of sharp political and institutional conflicts, as shown by the saga of the Brexit impact assessments. Furthermore, intra-party distrust and tensions between government and Parliament did not allow for learning through reflexivity and deliberation to emerge. Learning through hierarchy was undermined by the government’s decision to circumvent the traditional mechanisms of EU policy coordination across Whitehall by creating a separate Brexit department, compounded by the loss of political authority inflicted by the June 2017 general election. These hindrances resulted in a process of Brexit policy making through bargaining between political and bureaucratic factions within the British state. But the context was one of very high uncertainty in which credible bargains cannot be made between rival groups. This generated a pathological or dysfunctional form of learning limited to short-term contingency planning, rather than long-term strategic thinking. We conclude that analysing Brexit in this way provides important insights into how the contestation of knowledge and political-institutional barriers to learning contribute to policy failure. Taking a prescriptive turn, we finally reflect on the reforms and mechanisms that could have enabled a learning rich Brexit.



Media Reactions to Brexit: The UK, Spain, and Ireland Compared

Edward Philip Moxon-Browne

University of Limerick, Ireland

One of the more consistent themes in the Brexit negotiation was the perceptual divergence between the British government, and the EU27. This divergence was illustrated most clearly by the view in London that the UK had the stronger hand in the negotiations, and an erroneous belief that the EU 27 countries could be played off against each other. This misconception remained so strong that, even when Mrs May's withdrawal agreement was voted down by 432 votes to 202, the Brexiteers expressed the view that this gave the UK a strong "mandate" to re-open the negotiations. This paper examines the perceptual divergence from both the British and EU viewpoints. EU elite perceptions of UK policy are examined from the Spanish and Irish perspectives; and compared to the UK . This comparison will focus on elite newspaper reporting in these three countries using text from El Pais, the Irish Times and the Daily Telegraph between 13 December 2018 (the EU summit) and 13 January 2019 (the meaningful vote in the Hoiuse of Commons). It is argued that although the two EU countries (Spain and Ireland)maintained solidarity with the EU 27, each had national priorities that needed to be protected within the overall EU negotiating mandate (Gibraltar for Spain, and the Belfast Agreement for Ireland). For the UK, it is argued that a misunderstanding of the EU's position regarding the 'inviolability' of the Single Market led to repeated miscalculations in negotiating positions, and a series of concessions that cumulatively, and painfully, exposed the weakness of the UK in the whole Brexit process. In this paper, analysis of media sources is informed by a 'framing' theory that follows Entman's (1993) argument that text is deployed in such a way as to convey a specific 'message' to a target audience; and that this 'message' is just one of several versions of perceived reality.



The Brexit Negotiations - A Bounded Rationality Approach

Filipa Figueira1, Ben Martill2

1UCL, United Kingdom; 2LSE, United Kingdom

The Brexit negotiations have been characterised by analysts in two ways: Either as the abject failure of strategic thinking by a government preoccupied with survival and in an impossible position, or as a calculated strategy aimed principally at domestic audiences. In this article we argue that such perspectives are wrong-headed insofar as they rely on post-hoc assessments of strategic failure, ignore the genuine (but flawed) efforts of UK policymakers to extract concessions from the EU, and overplay the impossibility of Britain's position. We argue that the British position in the negotiations is best explained through the lens of bounded rationality, which highlights the manner in which limited information and biased perceptions intervene to affect the outcomes of strategic calculations. In particular, we argue that the failure of the UK's strategy is a product not of the impossibility of its position - or a lack of sincerity - but rather of its limited information and expertise, the continuity of routines from past negotiations no-longer applicable, and a host of misperceptions about the strength of the UK's bargaining power. We draw on a number of elite interviews conducted in London and Brussels to demonstrate the validity of our assumptions.