The UK public’s 23 June vote in favour of leaving the European Union (‘Brexit’) will have implications for the future of the UK’s foreign policy – including sanctions – the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has said.
While a decision to withdraw from the EU will not change the UK’s formal status until a separation deal is reached, the committee has called on the government and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to act swiftly to ‘open up new opportunities for the UK to redefine its international role’. As the chief decision-making government department, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office will be responsible for any new UK policy choices.
The committee suggested that government could adopt a ‘policy mirroring’ approach and continue to align itself to EU sanctions regimes – a method that is currently being employed by some non-EU Member States such as Switzerland and Norway – or increase its own autonomous sanctions powers and grant more authority to its national enforcement agencies, such as the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (‘OFSI’), launched earlier in the year.
For the time being, the UK’s obligations to the European Union’s sanctions regimes remain unchanged. Its autonomous measures regarding terrorist asset freezing will continue to apply, as will all restrictions imposed through the UN Security Council. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed with Iran should also remain unaffected.
Commenting on the possible impact of Brexit on the EU’s own sanctions policy, Dr Erica Moret, a senior researcher in the Programme for the Study of International Governance at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, said:
‘A Brexit-weakened EU sanctions policy is likely to intensify the need to employ other, more expensive, controversial or complicated forms of diplomacy, coercion or pressure. It will also likely strengthen Russia’s hand against Europe, as it benefits from a fragmented Europe with a weaker toolbox of security instruments at its disposal.’
Join us for discussion of the implications of ‘Brexit’ among other topical issues at the WorldECR Forums in Washington DC (September 12-13) and London (October 13-14) this autumn.
Further information is at:
A House of Commons report on the implications of the UK’s referendum on EU membership for its role in the world is available at: