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Making their voices heard: Relations between the UK’s nations and regions and the EU post-Brexit

This event, co-organised by the Aston Centre for Europe (ACE) and the Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) will explore the practice and scope of Britain’s new ‘paradiplomacy’ towards the EU in the wake of Brexit. It seeks to develop a stronger understanding of an effective multi-level engagement with the EU and European partners post-Brexit, and offers opportunities to compare and learn from best practices.


Across the world regions, cities and substate actors are part of the common currency of contemporary global politics. The foreign policy of any substate government or empowered authority is generally built upon their domestic competences. Most cities and regions exercise some degree of authority on issues such as environmental protection and sustainability, economic development, agriculture, education and transportation. This competence framework overlaps significantly with areas on which the EU continues to develop a policy agenda with significant global reach and suggests that conversations between these actors need to continue as the UK evolves into its role as a non-member partner country of the EU.


Prior to Brexit, all of the UK’s constituent nations and regions were home to a representative office or mini-embassy in Brussels, often a hub for governmental and local commercial interests that worked to harness opportunities for engagement with a wide range of European partners. These multi-level partnerships have the advantage of being far more flexible than nation-to-nation interactions and can be more directly focused on delivering social and economic well-being at a more local scale. This type of ‘paradiplomacy’ differs from state diplomacy as it is not about pursuing a defined state interest in the international arena but rather it is more pragmatic, targeted and opportunistic – sometimes even experimental.


How can all parts of the UK continue to derive benefits from engaging with European partners based in Brussels? How can the UK’s nations and regions continue to punch above their weight in EU circles and benefit from longer term partnership working across Europe? Is having a representation in the city a substantive opportunity to support domestic objectives, or are there other, more effective, routes to harnessing opportunities for partnership and engagement? Are there other models that the UK’s nations and regions can learn from? In the context of increasing political polarisation and questions being raised over the future of the union, would a more flexible and supportive approach from the British Government to international activities by substate actors strengthen or further weaken the ties of affinity that hold the UK together?


Listen to an audio recording of the event below and you can watch the video of the event here.


When March 28, 2022 5:00pm-6:30pm (UK Time)

This event will be taking place on Zoom.


Stephen Gethins, Former MP and Professor of Practice in International Relations at University of St Andrews

Dr Kirsty Hughes, Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, former Director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations

Professor Richard Wyn Jones, Director of the Wales Governance Centre and Dean of Public Affairs at Cardiff University

Theresa Griffin, Former MEP and Senior Associate at E3G

Clare Moody, Former MEP and Co-CEO of Equally Ours

Chair: Dr Carolyn Rowe, Co-Director of the Aston Centre for Europe

Listen to an audio recording of the event here

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