Politics and International Relations

In or Out? Informing the Political Debate and Popular Opinion on UK's EU Membership

Dr Adrian Pabst

The UK government is currently renegotiating the terms of Britain’s EU membership and will hold a referendum on the new deal before the end of 2017. This project seeks to inform both the political debate (and by extension popular opinion) by holding six public seminars that bring together academics, policy-makers, politicians, diplomats, business and trade union leaders as well as journalists – under the joint aegis of the James Madison Charitable Trust (JMCT) and the Centre for Federal Studies (CFS) at the University of Kent. The seminars will focus on the four ‘bundles of renegotiation’ set out by the Prime Minister (see below) and three themes of overarching importance to the outcome of the referendum: legitimacy, identity, and Britain’s role in Europe after the vote.

Each seminar will be coordinated jointly by a Trustee of the JMCT and an academic from the CFS. Ahead of each seminar, the project leader Adrian Pabst – together with colleagues from both the JMCT and the CFS – will write a short Working Paper that sets out the main issues and provides arguments and evidence from experts. The Working Papers will serve as the basis for debate and discussion.

After each seminar, the findings will be disseminated using a combination of podcasts with key experts and participants as well as op-ed and comment pieces in the press. At the end of the project, Adrian Pabst will compile all the Working Papers into a single report with a series of conclusions and recommendations. The overarching aim is to broaden and deepen the debate, so that decision-makers (and, through their arguments, voters) can make a more informed choice in the referendum.

To ensure impartiality, each seminar would feature participants who represent both sides of the debate (though not necessarily speakers).

Compared with existing initiatives such as the ESRC programme on the UK in a Changing Europe and the LSE Commission on the Future of Britain in Europe, this project provides a comprehensive engagement with decision-makers and a series of public seminars with the participation of opinion-formers. Whereas the LSE Commission hearings are closed, the seminars as part of this project will be open to a wide range of speakers and participants. And whereas the ESRC initiative runs until 2019, this project seeks to inform the debate in the run-up to the referendum and its aftermath.

Funding Body: James Madison Charitable Trust

Amount awarded: £15,000

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Last Updated: 07/03/2018