IPR Blog

Expert analysis, debates and comments on topical policy-relevant issues

Topic: International relations

From Brexit to European Renewal: the fracture of the social contract underlies the current turmoil

📥  Brexit, EU Referendum, Euroscepticism, future, Germany, International relations

Professor Graham Room is Director of Research and Professor of Social Policy in the Department of Social & Policy Sciences at the University of Bath

The European Commission’s 2017 White Paper on reform of the EU focussed on completion of the single market and firmer governance of the Euro, wholly ignoring inequality and social justice. Yet this is the ‘hot politics’ of European progress: the fracture of the ‘social contract’ between political leaders and the population at large. If ignored, it risks the melt-down of the whole Union.

The UK referendum in 2016 revealed deep popular disaffection with the European Union – in particular, on the part of working class communities that felt that they had been left behind, with their cohesion and their very identity under threat. Some of the roots of this disaffection may lie elsewhere – in national government policies or in the effects of globalisation more generally. The disaffection may also have been stoked by opportunistic politicians. The blame may, therefore, have been laid unfairly on Johnny Foreigner – the Brussels Eurocrat as much as the Syrian refugee. Be that as it may, it was sufficient to provoke one of the worst crises in the history of the EU.



Three questions arise.

First, was this a uniquely British malaise: or did it tell a more general story about the European project and the European citizen? In 1848 Marx and Engels focussed their attention on the burgeoning industrial towns and cities of northern England. They assured the world at large ‘de te fabula narratur’: the story that is unfolding here shows you your own future. How far did the disaffection of working class communities in the 2016 referendum, especially across that same northern England, encapsulate a larger unfolding story about Europe more generally? If it did, the European Commission (2017) gives little sign of paying heed, to judge by its White Paper on the Future of Europe, published in March.

Second, what are the roots of this disaffection and how appropriate is it, to lay the blame at Europe’s door? Is the EU distributing the benefits of European integration evenly, so that all communities can share in its prosperity, or is it visiting the costs of change disproportionately on those who are already vulnerable? And how far is the discontent of the aggrieved being given any voice, in the long-standing debates about the ‘democratic deficit’ of the EU?

Third, what reforms to the European project might address this malaise – and maybe in the process save the EU itself from further disintegration? Whether the promise of such reforms would suffice to reverse popular opinion in the UK, and even provoke the British electorate to apply an emergency brake to the whole Brexit process, is, of course, difficult to say. What seems clear however is that without such a positive vision of Europe’s future, capable of addressing the grievances that the Brexit referendum revealed, such a U-turn is highly unlikely.

My report for the University of Bath Institute for Policy Research, From Brexit to European Renewal, addresses these three questions.

It starts with the UK referendum and the politics of Brexit. Much has been written about the defenestration of the British political class and the turmoil the referendum result has produced in the British political system. This goes far beyond the politics of Westminster, with strains to the relationship with Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, and with potentially disastrous consequences for the UK’s post-divorce relationship with the EU27. My own focus, however, is on the relationship between political leaders and the population at large: the ‘social contract’ which is part of any democratic society. This is the bargain between leaders and led, the trading of political legitimacy for popular security. It is the fracture of this social contract, I argue, which underlay the Brexit vote; but it also raises for the EU the question of how far those cracks extend, across the body politic of Europe more generally.

The report argues that these cracks derive from flaws in the economic model that drives European integration. The single market involves the free movement of people, a principle that aligns well with the liberties that Europe treasures; but it also involves freedom of movement for goods, services and capital. Freedom of this sort has economic and social consequences which are not necessarily benign – reinforcing the inequalities between regions and eroding the social fabric of communities. Such persistent inequality is bound to alienate the communities most adversely affected.

Constitutional reforms to the European Parliament are here of little relevance: what matters are the principles of social justice by reference to which Europe treats its own. Yet these issues are left largely peripheral to the European debate. This is in part because of an economic orthodoxy, which expects social benefit to be evenly spread, as the natural concomitant to the free market; but also because social policy is assigned by the subsidiarity principle to the individual nation states. I argue that social policy and social justice are too important to be left there: they constitute the ‘hot politics’ of European progress and if ignored, they risk a meltdown of the whole Union.

The report sets out a programme of reforms which would accord with such principles of social justice: a social contract between European political leaders and European citizens, trading political legitimacy for collective solidarity and security. This is important for at least three reasons. First, because across Europe, ordinary people have since the financial crisis been struggling to get by on stagnant incomes, even as inequality has grown and the affluence of corporate elites continues to be flaunted. Second, because in an uncertain world, households and communities need to have some sense of stability, underpinned by public institutions. Only on this condition can they engage positively with change. Third, because the limited capacity of the individual nation state, to insulate itself from global uncertainties, means that social stability and justice have a much greater chance of being secured through collective action at European level. Such a social policy can touch the communities which other European policies cannot reach – giving them a critical voice and re-building political trust between leaders and led.

As yet, however, Europe’s political leaders seem to lack that positive vision. Germany continues to insist on austerity and financial prudence, as sufficient remedy for the economic malaise of the periphery. The 2017 White Paper makes much of the completion of the single market and the firmer governance of the euro. What it wholly lacks is any clear vision of social justice. Instead, the leaders of the EU seem stuck in a bubble, viewing the problem as one of institutional re-working.

The report concludes with the larger global significance of this drama. In the wake of the US election, the world is more turbulent and uncertain: rescuing and rebuilding Europe assumes an even greater importance. This will require major acts of political leadership by the EU institutions – demonstrating eloquently the positive benefits of European integration and shared purpose in an uncertain world. It may still be possible for the UK to be part of this grand re-working of the European project. The referendum was a collective decision: and responsible citizens, individually and collectively, are able to change their minds.

This article first appeared on LSE's Brexit blog. You can read more about Professor Graham Room's recent IPR Report, and download it in full, here.



Brexit Likely to Increase Modern Slavery in the UK

📥  Brexit, International relations, labour market

Professor Andrew Crane is Professor of Business and Society and Director of the Centre for Business, Organisations and Society at the University of Bath.

Theresa May’s historic signing of Article 50 looks set to be her lasting legacy as Prime Minister. Unfortunately, it is also likely to derail her other signature policy on modern slavery. Our research suggests Brexit could increase modern slavery in the UK.

The signing of Article 50 marks the point of no return for the UK’s exit from the European Union. Although she inherited the Brexit decision, Theresa May’s political legacy will stand and fall on how successfully she manages to steer the country through the turmoil.



Without a doubt, Article 50 will bring untold changes to the political, economic and cultural landscape of the country. One change that will certainly be high on May’s radar is its effect on modern slavery in the UK.

Modern slavery has been May’s signature policy since she was Home Secretary. She introduced the landmark Modern Slavery Act in 2015 prior to becoming PM, and has since continued to champion the cause. In announcing a ramping up of Government efforts to improve enforcement last year, she identified modern slavery as “the great human rights issue of our time” and heralded the UK as leading the way in defeating it.

While the Act is far from perfect, it has certainly focused increased attention and resources on modern slavery. Prosecution levels also appear to be improving. This was most recently illustrated by the sentencing of the Markowski brothers to six years in prison for trafficking and then exploiting 18 people from Poland, who they brought to the UK to work in a Sports Direct warehouse.

The problem is that, despite the advances gradually being made in addressing modern slavery in the UK, the signing of Article 50 is likely to worsen the problem. As May is probably acutely aware (but is so far not saying), Brexit may well undermine the progress she has made to date. It is a case of two steps forward, one step back.

According to research I conducted with an international team of colleagues looking at forced labour in the UK (initially funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation), four main problems are evident.

1.      Brexit will increase the demand for modern slavery

The Brexit vote has already created uncertainty among the legions of poorly paid but legal migrant workers from Eastern Europe that are employed in the UK’s low-wage economy. Signing Article 50 may ultimately help stem the flow of workers into the country as intended. But who is going to replace them? Domestic workers will fill some of the gaps but companies are unlikely to be willing to improve wages and conditions to attract them in sufficient numbers. So there will be greater opportunities for unscrupulous middlemen to traffic in workers from overseas or prey on vulnerable UK citizens to force them into exploitative situations. Forced labour flourishes where local, low-skilled labour is in short supply.

2.      Brexit will facilitate exploitation

Modern slavery often occurs when workers do not fully understand their legal rights and status. Our research uncovered various examples of migrant workers being exploited because those exploiting them misled them into the belief that they were working illegally. Perpetrators would also wait for or deliberately engineer changes in workers’ immigration status in order to exploit them. The point is that Brexit will create a period of increased uncertainty around legal status that will be a significant boon to exploiters.

3.      Brexit will increase the supply of modern slavery

Modern slavery occurs when people are vulnerable, either because of legal status, poverty, mental health, or drug and alcohol problems. In our research, the most common victims were those from countries such as Romania and Bulgaria who, at the time, were able to enter the country but were unable to work legally. This vulnerability was exploited by perpetrators who were able to coerce them into working in highly exploitative situations. The more the UK puts up barriers to people entering the country legally, the higher the risk of traffickers bringing them in illegally and pushing them into debt. Once workers are in debt, perpetrators are adept at escalating their indebtedness and creating situations of debt bondage.

4.      Brexit will turn victims into criminals

Our research found that many victims of forced labour in the UK were prosecuted under immigration offences rather than being identified as victims. The Modern Slavery Act has improved this situation but as the UK moves towards Brexit, the chances of this happening will increase because policing around immigration status is likely to intensify far more than around modern slavery.

May claims that under her leadership, “Britain will once again lead the way in defeating modern slavery”. But the bottom line is that by triggering Brexit, May will be left trying to solve a problem that she is helping to create.

This post first appeared on the Bath Business and Society blog.


Sea-Changes in World Power

📥  Anglosphere, defence, International relations, Trump

In 1907, Theodore Roosevelt sent the US Navy battle fleet – the “Great White Fleet” of 16 battleships – on a symbolic tour of the Pacific. It was an awesome demonstration of the USA’s new naval power and an announcement to the world of its claims to dominion over the Pacific. The fleet was feted everywhere it went, but particularly so in Australia and New Zealand, where it was welcomed as the “kith and kin of the Anglo-Saxon race” bringing “a grateful sense of security to the white man in his antipodean isolation.” Japan was a rising military power. It had annihilated the Russian fleet in 1905. Racist attitudes towards Japanese migrant workers were running high in the USA and Australasia. “Stars and Stripes, if you please/Protect us from the Japanese”, wrote a New Zealand correspondent.



Roosevelt saw the fleet’s tour in similar terms. He was resolved to treat the Japanese government with courtesy and respect. But he wanted to assert the importance of keeping the world’s “races” apart, particularly when it came to migration into California, and he inflected his Social Darwinist arguments with a class populism: “we have got to protect our working men”, he was reported to have argued. “We have got to build up our western country with our white civilization, and…we must retain the power to say who shall and who shall not come to our country. Now it may be that Japan will adopt a different attitude, will demand that her people be permitted to go where they think fit, so I thought it wise to send that fleet around to the Pacific to be ready to maintain our rights”[1].

Roosevelt was heavily influenced by the naval strategist Admiral Alfred Mahan, whose books on the importance of sea power and naval strength were key military texts in the late 19th and early 20th century, read and absorbed not just by US foreign and defence policymakers, but by their counterparts in the capitals of all the leading world powers – including Great Britain, whose naval prowess he much admired. He was also highly influential on Roosevelt’s fifth cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who devoured Mahan’s books as a young man and was a lifelong navy enthusiast, serving as Assistant Secretary for the Navy in Wilson’s administration. As President, FDR would massively expand the US Navy. Spending on the navy – a sort of naval Keynesianism – gave renewed impetus to the New Deal in the late 1930s.

Donald Trump’s speech at the Newport News shipyard, which builds ships for the US Navy, and his pledge to expand the fleet to 350 ships, therefore stands in a clearly defined lineage. It heralds a renewed commitment to assert the naval primacy of the USA and significantly boost military spending. On its own, that might be lifted straight out of the recent Republican playbook – particularly in concert with tax cuts for the wealthy. But Trump’s economic nationalism and his anti-Muslim, anti-immigration rhetoric also trace a line back to fin-de-siècle Anglo-Saxonist political discourse. His rhetoric symbolically connects the projection of economic and military power to the fortunes of the American working class, particularly the white working class – Teddy Roosevelt shorn of the progressivism and diplomatic tact.

This time, of course, the main antagonist is China, not Japan. China’s navy has been expanding rapidly under Xi Jinping’s leadership. It has commissioned new missile carriers, frigates, conventional and nuclear submarines, and amphibious assault ships. A close ally of Xi’s, Shen Jinlong, has recently been appointed its commander. It has moved from defensive coastal operations to long-range engagements around the world. It will serve to underpin China’s assertion of supremacy in the South China Sea and the projection of its power further afield – towards the Indian Ocean, the Gulf and the Maritime Silk Road routes.

The respective strength and reach of national navies can mark out wider shifts in geo-political power. It was at the Washington Conference in 1921 that the USA finally brought the Royal Navy to heel, insisting on parity in capital ships, and setting the seal on the end of the British Empire’s global maritime supremacy. “Never before had an empire of Britain’s stature so explicitly and consciously conceded superiority in such a crucial dimension of global power,” wrote Adam Tooze of this capitulation. It would take until the late 1960s, when Britain finally abandoned its bases East of Suez, for the process of imperial contraction to be complete (a decision that the current Foreign Secretary laments and risibly promises to reverse).

With tension rising in the South China Sea, war and rival power conflict in the Middle East and the Gulf region, and the prospect of a scramble for power over the sea lanes of the melting ice caps of the North West Passage, this new era of naval superpower rivalry echoes the Edwardian world. Steve Bannon, President Trump’s self-declared economic nationalist adviser, believes it will end the same way: in war. It is up to the rest of the world to prove him wrong.



[1] For this quotation and other source material, see Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds, Drawing the Global Colour Line, Cambridge: CUP (2008), Chapter 8 pp 190 - 209


The World in 2050 and Beyond: Part 1 - The Ever-Heavier Footprint

📥  cities, energy, future, International relations

Lord Rees of Ludlow is Astronomer Royal at the University of Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy, and founder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. This blog post, the first in a three-part series, is based on a lecture he gave at the IPR on 9 February.

A few years ago, I met a well-known Indian tycoon. Knowing that I had the title of Astronomer Royal, he asked: ‘do you do the queen’s horoscopes?’ I responded, with a straight face: ‘If she wanted one, I’m the person she’d ask’. He then seemed eager to hear my predictions. I told him that stocks would fluctuate, there’d be new tensions in the Middle East, and so forth. He paid rapt attention to these ‘insights’. But I then came clean. I said I was just an astronomer – not an astrologer. He then lost all interest in my predictions. And rightly so; scientists are rotten forecasters – almost as bad as economists.

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Nor do politicians and lawyers have a sure touch. One rather surprising futurologist was Lord Birkenhead, crony of Churchill and Lord Chancellor in the 1920s. He wrote a book entitled ‘The World in 2030’. He’d read Wells and Bernal – he envisaged babies incubated in flasks, flying cars and suchlike fantasies. In contrast, he foresaw social stagnation.

Here’s a quotation: “In 2030 women will still, by their wit and charms, inspire the most able men towards heights that they could never themselves achieve.”

I’m going to make forecasts, but – mindful of these precedents – very tentatively.

Astronomers think in billions of years. But even in that perspective this century is special. The Earth has existed for 45 million centuries – humans for a few thousand centuries. But this century is special: it’s the first when one species, ours, has the planet’s future in its hands. We’re deep in an era that’s called the Anthropocene. We could irreversibly degrade the biosphere, we could trigger the transition from biological to electronic intelligences, or misdirected technology – bio or cyber – could cause a catastrophic setback to civilisation.

Twelve years ago I wrote a book on this theme which I entitled Our Final Century? My publisher deleted the question-mark. The American publishers changed the title to 'Our Final Hour'. (Americans seek instant gratification – and the converse).

I didn’t think we’d wipe ourselves out. But I did think we’d be lucky to avoid devastating setbacks – and we’ve had one lucky escape already.

At any time in the Cold War era – when armament levels escalated beyond all reason – the superpowers could have stumbled towards armageddon through muddle and miscalculation.

Nuclear weapons are based on 20th century science. I’ll focus later in my argument on 21st century sciences – bio, cyber, and AI – which offer huge potential benefits, but also expose us to novel vulnerabilities

But before that let’s focus on the long-term threats that stem not from conscious decisions, bur from humanity’s ever-heavier collective ‘footprint’. Even with a cloudy crystal ball there are some things we can predict. For instance, it’s almost inevitable that by mid-century, the world will be more crowded.

Fifty years ago, world population was about 3 billion. It now exceeds 7 billion. But the growth is slowing. Indeed, the number of births per year, worldwide, peaked a few years ago and is going down. Nonetheless world population is forecast to rise to around 9 billion by 2050. That’s partly because most people in the developing world are young. They are yet to have children, and they will live longer. The age histogram in the developing world will become more like it is in Europe.

Experts predict continuing urbanisation – 70 percent of people in cities by 2050. Even by 2030 Lagos, São Paulo and Delhi will have populations above 30 million. To prevent megacities becoming turbulent dystopias will surely be a major challenge to governance.

Population growth seems currently under-discussed. That is maybe because doom-laden forecasts in the 1970s, by the Club of Rome, Paul Erlich and others, have proved off the mark. Up until now, food production has more than kept pace – famines stem from wars or maldistribution, not overall shortage. And it’s deemed by some a taboo subject – tainted by association with eugenics in the 1920s and 30s, with Indian policies under Indira Gandhi, and more recently with China's hard-line one-child policy.

Can 9 billion people be fed? My layman’s impression from reading the work of experts is that the answer’s yes. Improved agriculture – low-till, water-conserving, and perhaps involving GM crops – together with better engineering to reduce waste, improve irrigation, and so forth, could sustainably feed that number by mid-century. The buzz-phrase is ‘sustainable intensification’.

But there will need to be lifestyle changes. The world couldn't sustain even its present population if everyone lived like Americans do today– using as much energy per person and eating as much beef.

Population trends beyond 2050 are harder to predict. They will depend on what people now in their teens and 20s decide about the number and spacing of their children. Enhanced education and the empowerment of women – surely a benign priority in itself – could reduce fertility rates where they’re now highest. And the demographic transition hasn’t reached parts of India and Sub-Saharan Africa.

If families in Africa remain large, then according to the UN that continent’s population could double again by 2100 to 4 billion, thereby raising the global population to 11 billion. Nigeria alone would by then have as big a population as Europe and North America combined, and almost half of all the world’s children would be in Africa.

Optimists remind us that each extra mouth brings also two hands and a brain. Nonetheless, the higher the population becomes, the greater will be all pressures on resources – especially if the developing world narrows its gap with the developed world in its per capita consumption – and the harder it will be for Africa to escape the ‘poverty trap’. So we must surely hope that the global figure declines rather than rises after 2050.

Moreover, if humanity’s collective impact on nature pushes too hard against what Johan Rockstrom calls ‘planetary boundaries’, the resultant ‘ecological shock’ could irreversibly impoverish our biosphere. Extinction rates are rising; we’re destroying the book of life before we’ve read it. Biodiversity is a crucial component of human wellbeing. We're clearly harmed if fish stocks dwindle to extinction; there are plants in the rainforest whose gene pool might be useful to us. But for many environmentalists, preserving the richness of our biosphere has value in its own right, over and above what it means to us humans. To quote the great ecologist E O Wilson, ‘mass extinction is the sin that future generations will least forgive us for’.

The world’s getting more crowded. And there’s a second firm prediction: it will gradually get warmer. In contrast to population issues, climate change is certainly not under-discussed.

The famous Keeling curve shows how the concentration of CO2 in the air is rising, mainly due to the burning of fossil fuels. It’s still unclear how much the climatic effects of rising CO2 are amplified by associated changes in water vapour and clouds. The fifth IPCC report presents a spread of projections.

But despite the uncertainties there are two messages that most would agree on:

  1. Regional disruptions to weather patterns within the next 20-30 years will aggravate pressures on food and water, and engender migration.
  2. Under ‘business as usual’ scenarios we can’t rule out, later in the century, really catastrophic warming, and tipping pints triggering long-term trends like the melting of Greenland’s icecap.

But even those who accept both these statements have diverse views on the policy response. It’s important to realise that these divergences stem less from differences about the science than from differences in economics and ethics – in particular, in how much obligation we should feel towards future generations.

Economists who apply a standard discount rate (as, for instance, Bjorn Lomberg’s Copenhagen Consensus does) are in effect writing off what happens beyond 2050 – so unsurprisingly they downplay the priority of addressing climate change in comparison with shorter-term efforts to help the world’s poor.

But if you care about those who’ll live into the 22nd century and beyond, then, as economists like Stern and Weizman argue, you deem it worth paying an insurance premium now, to protect those generations against the worst-case scenarios.

So, even those who agree that there’s a significant risk of climate catastrophe a century hence will differ in how urgently they advocate action today. Their assessment will depend on expectations of future growth, and optimism about technological fixes. But, above all, it will depend on an ethical issue – in optimising people’s life-chances, should we discriminate on grounds of date of birth?

(As a parenthesis, I’d note that there’s one policy context where a discount rate of essentially zero is applied – radioactive waste disposal, where the depositories are required to prevent leakage for 10,000 years. This is somewhat ironic, when we can’t plan the rest of energy policy even 30 years ahead)

Consider this analogy. Suppose astronomers had tracked an asteroid, and calculated that it would hit the Earth in 2080, 65 years from now – not with certainty, but with (say) 10 per cent probability. Would we relax, saying that it’s a problem that can be set on one side for 50 years – people will then be richer, and it may turn out then that it’s going to miss the Earth anyway? I don’t think we would. There would surely be a consensus that we should start straight away and do our damnedest to find ways to deflect it, or mitigate its effects.

What will actually happen on the climate-policy front? The pledges made at the Paris conference are a positive step.

But even if they’re honoured, CO2 concentrations will rise steadily throughout the next 20 years. By then, we'll know with far more confidence – from a longer timebase of data, and from better modelling – just how strong the feedback from water vapour and clouds actually is. If the so-called ‘climate sensitivity’ is low, we’ll relax. But if it’s large, and climate consequently seems on an irreversible trajectory into dangerous territory, there may then be a pressure for 'panic measures'. This could involve a 'plan B' – being fatalistic about continuing dependence on fossil fuels, but combatting its effects by either a massive investment in carbon capture and storage, or else by geoengineering.

It’s feasible to inject enough aerosols into the stratosphere to cool the world’s climate – indeed, what is scary is that this might be within the resources of a single nation, or even a single corporation. There could be unintended side-effects; moreover, the warming would return with a vengeance if the countermeasures were ever discontinued – and other consequences of rising CO2 (especially the deleterious effects of ocean acidification) would be unchecked.

Geoengineering would be a political nightmare: not all nations would want to adjust the thermostat the same way. Very elaborate climatic modelling would be needed in order to calculate the regional impacts of an artificial intervention. (The only beneficiaries would be lawyers. They’d have a bonanza if nations could litigate over bad weather!).

I think it’s prudent to explore geoengineering techniques enough to clarify which options make sense, and perhaps damp down undue optimism about a technical 'quick fix' for our climate.

Many still hope that our civilisation can segue smoothly towards a low-carbon future. But politicians won't gain much resonance by advocating a bare-bones approach that entails unwelcome lifestyle changes – especially if the benefits are far away and decades into the future. But three measures that could mitigate climate change seem politically realistic.

First, all countries could improve energy-efficiency, insulate buildings better, and so forth—and thereby actually save money.

Second, we could target cuts to methane, black carbon and CFC emissions. These are subsidiary contributors to long-term warming. But unlike CO2, they cause local pollution too – in Chinese cities, for instance – so there’s a stronger incentive to reduce them.

But third, nations should expand R&D into all forms of low-carbon energy generation (renewables, 4th generation nuclear, fusion, and the rest), and into other technologies where parallel progress is crucial – especially storage (batteries, compressed air, pumped storage, flywheels, etc) and smart grids. That’s why an encouraging outcome of Paris was an initiative called ‘Mission Innovation’. It was launched by President Obama and the Indian Prime Minister Modi, and endorsed by the G7 nations, plus India, China and 11 other nations. It’s hoped they’ll pledge to double their publicly funded R&D into clean energy by 2020 and to coordinate efforts. There’s been a parallel pledge by Bill Gates and other private philanthropists.

This target is a modest one. Presently, only 2 per cent of publicly funded R&D is devoted to these challenges. Why shouldn’t the percentage be comparable to spending on medical or defence research?

The faster these ‘clean’ technologies advance, the sooner will their prices fall so they become affordable to developing countries – where more generating capacity will be needed, where the health of the poorest billions is jeopardised by smokey stoves burning wood or dung, and where there would otherwise be pressure to build coal-fired power stations.

It would be hard to think of a more inspiring challenge for young engineers than devising clean energy systems for the world.

All renewables have their niches – wind, tides, waves and hydro here in the UK, for instance. But an attractive scenario for Europe might be large-scale solar energy, coupled with a transcontinental DC smart grid network (north-south to transmit power from Spain or even Morocco to the less sunny north, and east-west to smooth over peak demand in different time-zones) with efficient storage as well.

Of course the unique difficulty of motivating CO2 reductions is that the impact of any action not only lies decades ahead, but is globally diffused. In contrast, for most politicians the immediate trumps the long term; the local trumps the global. So climate issues, which gained prominence during the Paris conference, will slip down the agenda again unless there’s continuing public concern.

For more information on Lord Rees' IPR lecture, please see our writeup here.



How the left should respond to the steady march of nationalism

📥  Brexit, future, International relations, Trump

Published in The New Statesman, December 2017

The new wave of nationalism is a reminder of the contingent, if not cyclical, nature of history. The liberal left cannot retreat to the comforts of moral outrage.

“Their world is collapsing. Ours is being built,” remarked ­Florian Philippot, the chief strategist of France’s Front National, after Donald Trump’s victory. Trump’s election to the presidency of the United States has consolidated a global shift towards nationalism that has been under way since the 2008 financial crisis. The steady march of nationalist politics has swept up swaths of the world’s population: Russia and Turkey are governed by authoritarian, ethno-religious regimes; eastern Europe is criss-crossed by illiberal, nationalist governments; and western Europe is now home to virulent, far-right movements and large, electorally competitive political parties, such as the Front National and the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (Freedom Party) in Austria, which have made their way into the democratic mainstream. Japan and India are governed by democratic, conservative nationalists, while in China an emergent strongman, Xi Jinping, has been newly designated as the “core” of the Communist Party leadership.


Until recently, the Anglosphere countries had largely bucked these trends. Centrist conservative dominance in England, Justin Trudeau’s victory in the 2015 Canadian general election and the likelihood that the Democrats would retain the White House promised to build a liberal firewall against the nationalist ascendancy. Brexit and Trump upended those assumptions. The nationalist virus has infected the body politic of Burkean Anglo-America.

A focus on populism – in policy, rhetoric and political style – obscures the asymmetry of this shift along the left/right axis. Contemporary nationalism is almost wholly conservative or authoritarian, and sometimes avowedly fascist. It is only civic or leftist in the case of political movements seeking liberation from existing nation states, as with Scottish or Catalan nationalism. Its ascendancy is therefore another marker of the electoral weakness of the contemporary centre left.

But it is also highly differentiated. In the UK, Theresa May’s government represents an attempt to reconcile post-Thatcherism with a soft economic nationalism and renewed social conservatism. Its bedrock is an older, security-conscious electorate that is sceptical of immigration and hostile to elites. This is a far cry from the nativist and fascist movements of the European mainland, which draw energy from youthful extremists as well as the post-industrial dispossessed, and which direct unstinting fire at migrant populations and the EU project.

European nationalism, in turn, cannot supply the conceptual frameworks with which to understand Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s business-friendly Hindu identity politics in India, nor, in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist, anti-Kurdish authoritarianism, which seeks to wrench Turkish nationalism out of its 20th-century secular, Kemalist frame. These have their own origins and trajectories. For its part, China maintains a political order that is highly ethnocentric, built around the dominant identity of the Han Chinese, and its leadership is increasingly centralised. But China is committed to the rule-bound, liberal global economic order on which its economic growth critically depends, and shows no interest in the military adventurism of its Russian neighbour.

This suggests that talk of a nationalist ­revolt against globalisation offers too simple an account of a complex picture. The new wave of nationalism has been incubated in the era of global integration, but it will not bring it to a close. Global supply chains, foreign direct investment, cross-border lending and the political institutions of managed trade all inhibit a reversion to autarky, imperial blocs or high tariff walls.

Global trade has fallen because of weak demand and the slowing of China’s growth, not protectionist sentiment, and although new multilateral deals with the Americans may now be off the cards, the cost of the US launching punitive tariff wars will be punishingly high. Trump’s election signifies an end to the signature trade agreements of the Obama era, and his narcissism and volatility introduce a deep uncertainty into global politics, particularly in the handling of relations with China, as the storm over Taiwan has shown. But regional trade blocs such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the European single market are unlikely to collapse, and the integration into the global economy of the huge working populations of Asia will continue, not unwind.

Still, such are the howls of protest from the rust belts of advanced economies, the surge of discontent among debt-laden, college-educated young people who have been locked in to low salaries and priced out of housing markets, and the political shocks administered by Trump and Ukip, that austerity in Europe and inequality in the US will come under renewed pressure. A “reactionary Keynesianism” of tax cuts for the rich, increased military spending and infrastructure credits will form the core of Trump’s economic strategy as he seeks to repay his base. He will be inaugurated at a time of rising wages, and as long as inflation is held in check, American workers will feel their pay cheques swell throughout his first term. In the UK, the rhetoric of delivering for the “just about managing” classes will outpace reality, but, like their Republican counterparts, the Conservatives will seek to lock down the electoral allegiances of working-class voters.

The eurozone is more uncertain. A victory for Marine Le Pen would be a cataclysmic defeat for European liberalism, but even if her Front National doesn’t manage to emulate Trump, the size of its popular support, the pressure of left-wing opponents of austerity in southern Europe, and the electoral threat posed by reactionaries in Germany may yet force Angela Merkel to abandon the self-defeating straitjacket of EU-wide austerity and weaken the mercantilism of the country’s export sectors. By dint of history and conviction, Germany’s leaders remain deeply committed to the European project; they will not let it disintegrate easily.

Some reshaping of the global security order is likely, in which tacit co-operation between the main military powers returns, retrospectively endorsing Vladimir Putin’s land-grabs and power plays in the Middle East. With the US, Japan and France pivoting towards more Russia-friendly postures, and Britain detached from European security diplomacy by Brexit, the stage is set for a new rapprochement with Putin. The EU is likely to expend more effort in defending the Paris climate-change agreement and the Iranian nuclear deal than in contesting Crimea or Aleppo, despite the fears of the Baltic states. China has already indicated that its priorities for dealing with a Trump presidency will be resisting protectionism and any backsliding on climate change.

The electoral success of nationalist and conservative authoritarian governments also masks the continued strength of liberalism’s social and economic redoubts. Cosmopolitan liberalism is not rootless: it is founded on large and growing university-educated, ethnically diverse urban populations. In recent electoral contests, this bloc has roughly matched those of the conservatives and nationalists. It has suffered narrow defeats, not decisive ones. It will now dig in to defend its social gains and to resist encroachments on civil rights and liberal constitutionalism. This resistance is already facing down authoritarianism in central and eastern Europe, and will put up a fight against evangelical-inspired culture wars, environmental degradation and attacks on minority rights. The politics of constitutional patriotism, often restricted to a “kissing the typewriter” liberalism of procedural justice, will, for once, attract passion and anger.

The new wave of nationalism is a reminder of the contingent, if not cyclical, nature of history. It is unlikely to usher in a post-liberal order, let alone foreshadow the end of capitalism, though one cannot discount increased violence and repression of minority communities. The space for a broad alliance of liberal, centrist, social-democratic and green politics remains wide – but it will need to find a way of articulating working-class interests, economic as well as cultural, and to find a more expressive, emotional and compelling register for its politics.

The liberal left cannot retreat to the comforts of moral outrage and political protest. The new times demand a progressive engagement with the politics of identity and belonging, as well as renewed radicalism on economic policy and social protection. “You have made yourself the trustee for those in every country who seek to mend the evils of our condition by reasoned experiment within the framework of the existing social system,” Keynes wrote to Roosevelt in December 1933. If the era of nationalists and authoritarians is to pass, this kind of leadership will be needed again.



Trumpism 101: The Outsider, Ignored For Years. No longer

📥  future, International relations, Trump, Uncategorised

Janine R. Wedel, a social anthropologist in the Schar School of Government and Policy at George Mason University and Global Policy Chair at the University of Bath, is the author of Unaccountable: How the Establishment Corrupted Our Finances, Freedom, and Politics and Created an Outsider Class (Pegasus, 2014), now out in paperback.

A version of this article was published in the Huffington Post (“Trumpism 101: The Outsider, Ignored For Years. No longer,” Oct. 27, 2016)

Hundreds, if not thousands, of pundits the world over have written about the various them­es that have come to life in the most extraordinary and alarming election year in modern history. But I daresay only a handful of thinkers can rightfully claim they examined these themes and warned about a coming revolt years ago. I am one of the few, a social anthropologist studying power and influence, first in Central and Eastern Europe before and after communism and, more recently, in the United States. I began addressing anti-establishment rage with Shadow Elite in 2009 and then further in 2014’s Unaccountable: How the Establishment Corrupted Our Freedom, Finances, and Politics and Created an Outsider Class, now out in paperback.



The rhetoric this year has been disturbing to me, not just as a person who values civility in discourse, but also as a scholar. Complex topics I have studied for decades—elite power and influence, corruption, political rigging—have now been hijacked by a demagogue. There is thus a big risk of burying a sober and much-needed discussion of these important, complicated issues. I hope to address them here.

Let’s begin with the defining feature of the 2016 revolt: outsiderism. Increasingly, people identify themselves as outsiders, and look to leaders who claim to do the same. Digital technology, of course, enables these outsiders to mass together in ways never before possible. Wholesale alienation was in evidence long before 2016.

Two years ago, I wrote this in Unaccountable:

How is it that ordinary people have an instinctual grasp of the real nature of corruption and the inequality that often results, while many experts are still wedded to the idea that corruption happens somewhere out there? Witness the Occupy protests that began on Wall Street in 2011 and the Tea Party movement that helped grind the U.S. government to a halt in the fall of 2013. They may otherwise have little in common, but they share a resounding refrain: that the system is gamed by the powerful.

When I wrote those words, President-elect Donald Trump was just a middling, blustering reality television star and self-aggrandising real estate mogul. Senator Bernie Sanders was a distant third on the list of famous Vermonters, well behind Ben and Jerry, of ice cream fortune. More than two years later, I’ve heard these revolutionary figures and a parade of their supporters agree wholeheartedly that the system is rigged.

Since 2014, I have watched with distress, though not much surprise, as the arguments I made sprang to full flower in massive anti-establishment movements in the United States and Europe. My lack of surprise is because I come at this issue from a perspective and history few others have. I am an American who began her career as a young scholar overseas in the waning years of communism. On both sides of the Atlantic I have since been studying elites who wield power and influence, how they operate in new and insidious ways, and the seismic changes that spawned them. The result is that ordinary people now have little meaningful voice in making and shaping the policies that affect their lives and livelihoods. I have sought to redefine corruption as actions that violate the public trust, even if they are not technically illegal. Most, if not all, of this “new corruption,” as I call it, is fully legal, even if most of us would consider it unethical.

Over the past two years, the populist, anti-elite movements erupting around the world showed that regular people were starting to grasp at a primal level the contours of the new corruption, because indeed they were living with it. Now this is a stone-cold reality. The public knows full well that this new corruption is flourishing, though the culprits that are usually mentioned—money in politics, greedy banks, or the simple revolving door—tell a story that’s dangerously incomplete. Many elites, by contrast, have been blind-sided. The media, too, have been caught off guard by insurgencies from both right and left. So have most pundits and scholars.

That is because, to quote from Unaccountable:

…..more and more we feel like we’re excluded from a system we used to know how to negotiate but no longer quite do. Figuring things out is not as straightforward as in the past. We‘re subject to new ways of influencing and organizing influence that are not as obvious as they were just twenty-five—or even five—years ago... [W]e sense a division between outsiders and insiders and that the insiders are working on their own behalf, even as they purport to have us, the public, in mind. The rest of us are left on the outside, knocking to get in.

This rigged system does exist. The sense that something huge is amiss has driven millions of Americans to seek leaders they perceive as outside of the system—the most successful being Trump, Bernie Sanders, and a motley collection of third party candidates. In fact, as I argue, the new corruption of Hillary Clinton and many, many elite players of all stripes has paved the way for the likes of Trump and Sanders. Clinton’s byzantine family foundation is not merely a right-wing talking point. Serious concerns about the conflicts of interest embedded there should give pause to citizens of any political persuasion. And her use of a private email system while secretary of State exemplifies a classic characteristic of this Unaccountable era—boundary-pushing elites subverting the standard bureaucracy in self-interested ways that make transparency difficult, if not impossible. It is unfortunate that Trump has so sullied the discourse that these very real issues cannot be discussed dispassionately; rather, people, even family members, are coming to blows on social media. Sometimes this election season, we’re talking about actual blows. And now the President-elect seems to be blithely disinterested or uninformed about the very corruption he decried in speech after speech. Aside from blatantly violating norms and dismissing questions about his own vast conflicts-of-interest, he is surrounding himself with some of the very people who practice the more subtle but very insidious form of new corruption, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Trump, it is important to note, is not one of the elites I study who shape policy. He is actually useful in making the distinction about who I am talking about. Trump is a wealthy celebrity who until Election Day was not involved himself in any major way in Washington-style policy manipulation. (That in no way absolves him from his many other alleged abuses: of the tax code, of sound and fair business practices, of standards of civility, and of women.)

Trump is what happens when elites in the establishment game the system to their advantage, widening income inequalities, and crippling trust in civic institutions. These developments have left regular people disillusioned and looking for a savior in a demagogue like him.

Sanders, of course, never exhibited the alarming authoritarianism that Trump does, but his followers are equally anti-establishment and anti-elite. To Sanders’s supporters, Clinton represents the unholy alliance between Democrats and Wall Street, and the corruption of a political system awash in mystery money from corporations and even foreign governments. These followers have solid points to make, if not always pragmatic plans for fixing the enormous challenges they lay out.

Americans are not the only people experiencing an epidemic of outsiderism. Such disaffection from the establishment and resulting populist movements are by no means limited to the United States. I have witnessed them first-hand in Europe, where I spent the year from September 2015 through August 2016 conducting research and teaching in several cities across the continent, in part as a Fulbright scholar (my analysis here is entirely my own, not that of the Fulbright program.) In Germany, I saw the continued rise of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), founded only in 2013. The AfD scored strongly, earning votes in the double digits in three German states during elections in spring 2016 and, in September 2016, even beating the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel in her home state. I watched German news coverage of France, where terror attacks have been feeding xenophobic support for Marine Le Pen and her far right-wing National Front party. In June, from Ukraine, I watched coverage of how voters in the United Kingdom shocked elites there and around the world by voting to Brexit the European Union. The far right (some would say fascist) did suffer a defeat in December in Austria’s presidential elections, where, for the first time since World War II, neither establishment party (Social Democrats and Austrian People’s) saw their candidate appear in the top spot.

Whether from the right or the left, these candidates and movements have one hugely salient attribute in common: They are profoundly and aggressively anti-elite, anti-establishment, and anti-system. They seek to abolish the system without any real or viable plan for replacing it.

The result is President-elect Trump, whose actions thus far to “drain the swamp” suggests only one thing: that he had no idea who the swamp-dwellers were in the first place.







Cooperating for Africa: two challenges to meeting development goals

📥  development, Economy, Foreign aid, International relations

Seung-Jin Baek is an Economist at the Renewal of Planning Section of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and is studying on the IPR's Professional Doctorate programme.

Currently, Africa faces a great challenge, in that the considerable development objectives that the continent must meet are being tackled through addressing two separate agendas. At the regional level, Africa has her own long-term development framework – Agenda 2063 – that aims to achieve an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa. Then, at the global level, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – adopted in September 2015 – sets out Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are comprehensive and promise to rally global partners in support of Africa’s development.



Under these two agendas, Africa is now confronted with a dual transition: the global-level transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the SDGs, and the continent-wide implementation of Agenda 2063. The numbers of goals, targets and indicators involved in each plan reflects just how complex this dual transition is: Agenda 2063 has 7 aspirations, 20 goals and 34 priority areas, 171 national targets, 85 continental targets and approximately 246 indicators, while the SDGs comprise 17 goals, 169 targets and 230 indicators. Implementation will be no easy task for African countries.

These two agendas will provide a foundation for Africa’s inclusive growth and structural transformation. To achieve this, both African countries and development partners need to scale up their commitments to the implementation of the plans by leveraging synergies among them. Two factors are critical in this regard: engagement on Africa’s part with emerging partners, and a commitment from Africa and its partners to prioritise KID – knowing, integrating and domesticating both agendas – to make its goals achievable.

Africa’s engagement with development partners

The first area to be addressed is emerging partnerships, which will provide the financial framework within which development agendas can be achieved. Undoubtedly, global partnerships have been playing an important role in Africa’s development during the MDG implementation era, through bridging financing gaps for development and building policymaking and technology capacities. There is, however, still a considerable gap in addressing the special needs of African countries – such as the promotion of inter- and intra-continental trade, infrastructure development, and governance improvement as well as environmental management.

The most effective channel of such partnerships is trade, which has been a major commitment from development partners. Recent World Trade Organization international trade statistics, however, show that the share of Africa’s exports declined from 3.3 per cent in 2013 to 3.0 per cent in 2014 and 2.4 per cent in 2015. This is partly due to unfavourable movement in global commodity prices, which have a significant impact on investment and economic growth on Africa, given its heavy dependence on natural resource products for export.

Another essential channel is official development assistance, or ODA. Based on analysis of the OECD development statistics, Africa has maintained its position as the largest recipient of ODA over the past three decades with regional share of about 43 per cent – meaning that almost half of world ODA was injected into Africa. It should be noted, however, that most OECD-DAC countries do not meet their ODA commitments to provide 0.7 per cent of their countries’ GNI. In fact, the total ODA from the DAC group reached only 0.29 per cent of the combined GNI – implying a delivery gap of 0.41 per cent. Because this huge gap is unlikely to narrow in the near future, the quality of ODA and its use have to be seriously taken into consideration.

Role of emerging economies in Africa’s development

In the light of these global partnership trends, there are a number of action points for both Africa and development partners. First of all, it is imperative that African governments strengthen macroeconomic sustainability and public management of natural resource revenues, and leverage such funds for the transformation of their economies.

Given the substantial delivery gap in ODA commitments, it is also extremely important for Africa to develop and strengthen partnerships with emerging economies such as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) as an alternative, but very important, source of financing, learning and technology. For instance, according to Oxfam International’s Africa-China Dialogue Platform, China has emerged as the largest trading partner to Africa over the past five years: Africa’s trade volume with China reached US$225 billion, which is twice that the continent shares with the United States. Furthermore, Chinese foreign direct investment and other forms of development assistance to Africa are substantially increasing.

With this growing role of emerging partners, in addition to that of traditional development partners, the international community all together should work closely with African governments to strengthen capacities for domestic resource mobilisation and particularly to curb illicit financial outflows. According to the ECA’s study on illicit financial flows, Africa is currently losing more than US$50bn annually – almost double the foreign aid flowing into Africa – from aggressive tax avoidance practices by multinational companies.

Africa’s dual transition to the SDGs and Agenda 2063

The second point to which I refer is the dual transition that Africa must undertake to address both the SDGs and Agenda 2063. Despite the challenges identified above, recent developments at the regional and global levels point to an increasingly supportive financial environment for Africa. The question now is: what are the challenges associated with dual transition, and which areas of development should both Africa and development partners focus and how? For this, the MDGs to Agenda 2063/SDGs Transition Report 2016 clearly identified challenges and opportunities.

Implementation of both agendas requires advocacy for and sensitisation to the details of both frameworks to ensure awareness of their mutual relevance to national development and the relationship and synergies between them. In this context, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development should be understood as an attempt to respond to the global dimensions of Africa’s development challenges, while Agenda 2063 should be viewed as a response to continent-specific development challenges and aspirations, many of which overlap.

With the sheer volume of goals, targets and indicators embodied in each of the agendas, there is inevitably significant convergence between them. In this regard, an integrated set of goals, targets and indicators – along with a harmonised review and reporting platform to develop a core set of continental indicators – is required to effectively track progress on both agendas. Such arrangements need to take into account the levels of development of individual countries.

While convergence between the two agendas is significant, integrated and coherent implementation of both agendas into national planning systems will be an operational challenge as significant as it is vital. In recognition of this challenge, the ECA has developed a draft toolkit that maps the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063 at the goal, target and indicator levels and provides a diagnostic tool for integrating both agendas in national planning frameworks.

Capacity matters most

In effect, successful implementation requires strengthened capacities for policymaking and the analysis of inter- and intra-sectoral impacts of policy initiatives. Even with the adoption of the SDGs alone, countries will require an integrated approach that simultaneously addresses the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainability in a balanced way. This is an area where evidence-based analysis of the structural effects (tradeoffs and synergies) of key policies is needed.

In the past there has been a tendency to consider immediate benefits above all else; the economic benefits of increased oil production, for example, were not adequately weighed against the possible negative environmental and social costs. Therefore, there should be a significant effort to identify the most appropriate institutional architecture that individual countries can use to facilitate effective implementation of the two agendas. Invariably, the role of planning agencies will be paramount in ensuring that the economic, social and environmental dimensions of policy decisions are reflected in a balanced manner in all aspects of programme and project execution.

In this new age of Africa’s development, multi-stakeholder partnerships remain one of the most critical means of mobilising internal and external resources. Furthermore, the active participation of emerging partners is required to address Africa’s challenges of dual transition and to support its operationalisation. In this regard, traditional partners and emerging nations need to establish ways of partnering and cooperating with each other towards supporting Africa in realising its development aspiration, particularly for the areas of KID:

[K]nowing about both agendas to simultaneously address the three dimensions of sustainability with strengthened evidenced-based policymaking capacities

[I]ntegrating both agendas to harmonise frameworks and establish common mechanisms of implementation and follow-up architecture

[D]omesticating both agendas in national planning frameworks with strengthened institutional capacities for effective institutional coordination and arrangements



This blog is mainly derived from Seung-Jin’s presentation during the Oxfam International Conference, which took place in Addis Ababa on 28 September 2016, and from the MDGs to Agenda 2063/SDGs Transition Report 2016, a joint publication by the ECA, African Union Commission, African Development Bank and United Nations Development Programme which was launched in the United Nations General Assembly on 21 September 2016. The views expressed in the blog are his own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.


Four men who will shape the way the EU negotiates Brexit

📥  Brexit, EU membership, EU renegotiation, France, Germany, International relations

Dr Susan Milner is Reader in European Politics at the University of Bath. Dr Patricia Hogwood is Reader in European Politics at the University of Westminster, and Clément Jadot is a PhD candidate at the Université Libre de Bruxelles.

Although the UK has yet to announce when it will trigger the all-important Article 50, which will start the process of it leaving the European Union, diplomats on the continent are getting ready for kick-off. Here we profile four people – two Germans, a Frenchman and a Belgian – who are likely to play a part in shaping the way Brexit negotiations will play out.



Michel Barnier
Chief Negotiator for the European Commission on Article 50

The nomination of Michel Barnier in July to head European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s task force on Brexit negotiations raised eyebrows and a few hackles in Britain. The right-wing press depicted the Brussels insider as an “arch federalist”. He has been an EU commissioner twice, most recently in charge of the single market from 2010 to 2014, and is known in the UK as the architect of banking union.

But Barnier has been at pains in his recent writing to distinguish himself from both what he sees as a British-style narrow agenda for the EU and a federalist expansive view of it. Instead, he has sought to promote a strong European economy and industry in a world of regional economic blocs: as he put it in his 2014 book, “less regulation and more policy”. Commentators agree that his task force, which will start work on October 1, shows that Juncker’s commission means business.

Two things are of note here: first, Barnier’s team shows a strong Franco-German political leadership, with the appointment of current trade commissioner Sabine Weyand as his deputy, and experienced commission official, Stéphanie Riso as his chief advisor. Second, all concerned have strong links with the single market, intra-EU trade and external trade negotiations. The level of specialist knowledge, experience and networks they have to hand will be difficult to match on the British side.

Barnier also has strong links with the French political establishment, maintained over a long career in politics (he was the youngest MP in parliament at the age of 27 in 1978). This means that he will have a close working relationship with any of the likely presidential candidates of France’s right-wing party Les Republicans who currently look best-placed to beat the Front National in next year’s executive elections.

At the moment, France’s relationship with the UK is mired in acrimony over the Calais migrant crisis which will intensify as the elections loom, creating another headache for Brexit negotiators. Any incoming French president is likely to push for a tough line on allowing Britain to retain access to the single market.

Martin Selmayr
Head of Cabinet for Jean-Claude Juncker

EU president Jean-Claude Juncker’s right-hand man, Martin Selmayr, is well-placed to set the parameters of the Brexit negotiations. A professor of European law, Selmayr was appointed Juncker’s head of cabinet in 2014. There his responsibilities include overall management of the cabinet and legal and communications strategy. Fiercely competent, ruthless and abrasive, Selmayr is a staunch European federalist who believes that the UK has long obstructed European integration and that Brexit will promote European unity.

Selmayr is best known in Britain for his comment that the prospect of Boris Johnson as UK prime minister would be a “horror scenario”. Selmayr enjoys links to the German media and to Angela Merkel’s chief of staff Peter Altmaier, but some believe he may be taking too much of a political risk in confounding Germany’s leadership role in EU internal matters. Certainly, Germany has been keen to avoid the Commission dominating the Brexit process for fear that hardliners Juncker and Selmayr would adopt a confrontational and uncompromising stance against the UK.

EU member-state governments were quick to block an attempt by Selmayr to appoint himself as the coordinator of Brexit negotiations for the European Council – a job that council president Donald Tusk gave to the Belgian Didier Seeuws. But Selmayr remains in an ideal position to shape the commission task-force once the exit clause is triggered by the UK.

Guy Verhofstadt
European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator

A spearhead of the federalist movement within the European Parliament, Belgian’s former prime minister Guy Verhofstadt enjoys great popularity both in Belgium and the EU and substantial experience in negotiating both at the national and EU levels. But his appointment as the parliament’s chief negotiator on Brexit, sparked criticism from UK eurosceptics, with the former UKIP leader Nigel Farage branding him a “fanatic”.

Former Belgian PM, Guy Verhofstadt. ALDEGroup/flickr.com, CC BY-ND
At the age of just 29 he became president of the Flemish liberal party of Belgium and quickly became a major political player. As prime minister between 1999 and 2008 he was already looking towards Europe – and in 2006 wrote a book called the United States of Europe. But in 2004, the then UK prime minister Tony Blair refused to back him as a candidate to succeed Romano Prodi as European Commission President, despite the fact that he had had early support from French president Jacques Chirac and German chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

Five years later, he entered the European Parliament as an MEP, where he’s been holding the chairmanship of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group ever since. He has built up a reputation as a fierce partisan of a federal Europe. Popular among his peers, he co-founded the Spinelli Group in 2010 – a network of organisations working for greater federalism in Europe – and in 2014 was the ALDE party nominee for the European Commission presidency.

In the UK, Verhofstadt is known for his arguments within the European Parliament with eurosceptics and nationalists over the future of Europe. Since his appointment, he has been frank about his negotiating position, in particular, insisting the parliament would refuse a deal which would allow the UK to enjoy access to the single market while opting out of the free movement of people.

No doubt that over the forthcoming discussions, Verhofstadt will be a tough and experienced negotiator.

Michael Roth
Germany’s de facto Brexit negotiator

As soon as the EU referendum result became known, it was clear that Germany would play a key role in the Brexit negotiations. In Germany, an issue exists only when it has legal status. This means that there will be no formal designation of a Brexit negotiating team until the UK triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, formally launching the exit process. In the meantime, Germany’s de facto spokesperson on Brexit is Michael Roth.

A committed protestant and member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Roth has been an MP since 1998. He was made European affairs minister in 2013, aged 43. As a secretary of state or junior minister, to the public Roth is little known outside his home region of Hessen, but is recognised in political circles as one of the most influential up-and-coming politicians in chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet.

Young, dynamic and confident, Roth claims to be “heart and guts” for Europe. On Brexit, Roth is a moderate, conceding that the EU will need to work out a “special status” for the UK after Brexit on account of the country’s size, its economic weight and the length of its membership of the EU. At the same time, though, he has stressed that a close relationship would not allow UK “cherry picking” and there would be no access to the EU free market without the free movement of people. He insists that the UK needs to be ready to negotiate at the start of 2017.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.


Altering the foreign aid equation

📥  Foreign aid, International relations

Ali Salman is Founder and Executive Director of the Policy Research Institute of Market Economy in Islamabad, and is studying on the IPR's Professional Doctorate programme.

The West has spent US$2.3 trillion on foreign aid over the last five decades and has not managed to “get 12-cent medicines to children to prevent half of all malaria deaths, or $3 to each new mother to prevent 5 million child deaths,” writes William Easterly, the author of The White Man’s Burden: How the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good.

Easterly believes that economic development comes not through aid, but through the home-grown efforts of entrepreneurs and social and political reformers. It could also be added that strengthening of the civil society also helps in economic development.



Criticisms of government-to-government foreign aid can be divided into two groups. One group rests its claim on the technical evaluation of aid programmes, thus raising doubts about the efficacy of foreign aid - especially in relation to poverty reduction. This group makes recommendations for improving the programme design and accountability mechanisms, but it accepts the basic paradigm of foreign aid that the poor need external help. This is aid managerialism.

The other group criticises foreign aid in terms of its probable use as a leverage to extend influence on the domestic policy of developing countries. This group raises fundamental questions about how the aid is structured and relates it with what it calls a neo-imperialist agenda.

In most cases, 75% of aid money goes back to donor countries in the form of contracts and supply of goods. Governments are often engaged in a turf war when negotiating the terms of engagement with foreign aid agencies.

The currently enforced Foreign Contributions Act 2015 in Pakistan links the use of foreign aid with transactional approval from the Economic Affairs Division. This is aid politics.

There are important actors in foreign aid – the aid professionals, consultants, evaluators and international and local contractors. They associate themselves with governments, civil society and donors. More often than not, they broker the flow of aid between donors and recipients by preparing programmes, proposals and projects. Their interest obviously lies in expanding foreign aid. This is aid business.


The problem with the first argument – aid managerialism – is that it may end up demanding more foreign aid and, just like any failed government programme, it gets more budget. This just feeds into the foreign aid cycle and increases the cost of fundamental change.

The problem with the second argument – aid politics – is that it may deny external resources when and where they are needed the most, especially for meeting challenges of the on-going humanitarian crisis including disaster preparedness and mitigation.

This argument also increases the risk of government’s increased control in the recipient country, which in turn could be utilised to further a government head’s undemocratic ambitions.

Possible remedy

An alternative scenario, a hypothetical one, can be considered in which there is no government-to-government foreign aid. In such a scenario, the recipient government declares a ban on foreign aid for publicly funded programmes and departments such as public education and health.

Instead, it creates channels and mechanisms where foreign aid can flow directly to civil society, NGOs, the private sector and philanthropic organisations, serving the same purpose of public goods delivery, albeit in a much more cost-effective manner.

An immediate consequence of this ban will be a fundamental change in intergovernmental relationships altering the power structure. At the same time, it will keep donor countries committed to the Sustainable Development Goals. This is aid globalism.

Altering the foreign aid equation by this fundamental shift will strengthen civil society and private institutions, which will also bring a positive change to social and political structures in the recipient countries.

The re-directed foreign aid will be government-light, society-heavy. Governments on both the donor and recipient sides will have reduced controls. However, this should not undermine collective efforts to make aid flows more transparent and more accountable.

Under aid globalism, less money will be flown back to donor country-based contractors and less money will be stuck in the bureaucratic gridlock of recipients. More of the aid will reach the places where it is needed the most.

This article originally appeared in The Express Tribune.