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What should the policy priorities for the new UK government be once elected?

Whoever takes up residence in 10 Downing Street after the general election, their in-tray is sure to be full-to-bursting. Whether it is global security, productivity, housing or the cost-of-living, the incoming government will need to address challenges on multiple fronts…but where should they focus their efforts? Here some of our King’s College London academics draw on their research and expertise to share their insights into the policy challenges they believe the next government should make a priority as a new parliament begins.

Professor Anne Rasmussen, from the Department of Political Economy, said: “Managing the consequences of Brexit will be a paramount policy priority for the future UK government. Brexit has far-reaching implications across various domains, necessitating focused attention. This encompasses tackling challenges like trade disruptions, regulatory adjustments, and mitigating impacts on industries and communities.

“Addressing labour shortages and reforming immigration policies remains critical amidst demographic shifts. Simultaneously, preserving access to research collaboration and funding is imperative to maintain the UK's status as a leading educational and research hub.”

Alex Clarkson

Dr Alex Clarkson, lecturer in European and international studies, said: “Recent legislative paralysis in Washington that blocked additional aid to Ukraine for several months has forced the EU and UK to accelerate efforts to achieve military self-reliance. Yet this short-term scramble to achieve European strategic autonomy is a reactive response to events in Washington rather than the product of a long-term strategy to manage the emergence of a post-American security order.

“Given the momentum toward US withdrawal from its current global role on both the Restrainer left and Republican MAGA right, a new UK government as well as EU policymakers would need to develop a comprehensive approach toward managing Washington’s potential retreat from Europe’s neighbourhood.

“Faced with the possibility that a second Trump administration could abruptly pull the plug on US alliances, policymakers in the EU and UK need to prepare the ground for a more gradual transition through negotiations with Washington. When dealing with Republican isolationists, forms of economic leverage as well as diplomatic signals in relations with China could be used as bargaining chips to encourage Trump to accept managed US withdrawal through constructive talks rather than confrontational posturing.

“In a scenario in which Trump is defeated and post-Biden centrists reassess the foundations of US foreign policy, the EU and UK can test how serious Restrainers close to the Democratic Party are about building a sustainable global security architecture by proposing a renegotiated relationship between the US and Europe based on concrete action to restore European military power.”

Professor Simona Talani, from the Department of European and International Studies, said: “The debate about the implementation of a common migratory policy vis-à-vis third country nationals in the EU is a thriving one and one that does not seem to be easy to resolve. Much of the discussion focuses on the notion of the ‘Fortress Europe’, which has been defined in the literature as an area enjoying internal mobility while erecting barriers to entry and stay with respect to non-EU citizens.

“This notion is now applied to UK citizens as, well as third country nationals while EU citizens stopped enjoying the prerogatives they had before Brexit. This debate on the free circulation of EU and UK citizens in their corresponding territories is one which will need to be addressed when both the British and the EU elections are over especially if the UK wants to tackle the issue of the boats in the English Channel effectively.”

Dr Russell Foster, senior lecturer in British and international politics, said: “Foreign policy and security are rarely vote-changing issues in general elections, particularly since the end of the Cold War and the subsequent 'peace dividend'. This has changed in 2024. Following Brexit the UK's foreign relations and reputation have been severely tarnished, with Britain trying - mostly unsuccessfully - to balance a relationship with the EU alongside aspirations of 'Global Britain'. At the same time, the global security situation has radically changed since February 2022. The Conservatives, until now seen as the party of defence and security, are largely not trusted with Britain's armed forces and foreign policy. Labour, following the disastrous Corbyn experiment, are struggling to present themselves as dedicated to national security and the rules-based Western order.

“Whoever wins an increasingly toxic election faces the challenge of rebuilding the UK's armed forces following 14 years of austerity and with limited funds, and establishing the UK's relationship with NATO, the EU, and the new European Political Community, alongside rebuilding Britain's international reputation as a reliable foreign policy actor. This will not be an easy task, as foreign policy is a highly contested and emotional issue for an angry electorate. Politicians across the spectrum speak of a 'new 1930s' and a 'pre-war era' for Britain, and for the first time since the end of the Cold War, parties' stances on foreign relations may prove the determining factor of the general election.”

Professor Andrew Blick

Professor Andrew Blick, head of the Department of Political Economy, said: “The incoming government will be taking office at a time when there are threats to democracies across the world, including in Europe and in the UK itself. If it is going to be able to address critical issues such as the climate emergency, strains upon public services, and inequality, as well as matters of global security, the system of government needs to be viable and legitimate, and conducted in accordance with accepted norms.

“An overriding priority of the new government, therefore, is to ensure that the rule of law - domestic and international - is upheld; constitutional standards and propriety are upheld; and populist techniques of blame shifting are refrained from.”

In this story

Alex Clarkson

Alex Clarkson

Lecturer in German and European & International Studies

Russell Foster

Russell Foster

Senior Lecturer in British and International Politics

Andrew  Blick

Andrew Blick

Head of the Department of Political Economy and Professor of Politics and Contemporary History

Leila Simona Talani

Leila Simona Talani

Professor of International Political Economy and Director of the Centre for Italian Politics @ EIS

Anne Rasmussen

Anne Rasmussen

Professor of Political Science

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