Place policy beyond Brexit

11 September 2019


Reported by Kate McNeil, CSaP Communications Coordinator

Brexit is, in part, an expression of “dissatisfaction at the of ordering the world and the place of the individual within it” said Philip Rycroft, the former Permanent Secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union.

Speaking at CSaP's 2019 annual conference, Rycroft suggested that the UK is facing both practical and existential questions in the face of Brexit. He posited that viewing Brexit through the lens of place could be “a useful way of discerning some of the challenges that might lie ahead.”

Rycroft argued that Brexit challenges will manifest in three key ways: in the UK’s relationship with the world, through challenges in the relationships between the countries which comprise the UK, and in addressing disenfranchisement at a local level.

British policymakers will have to take fresh approaches to influencing Brussels, while making choices concerning trade patterns which will have economic and reputational impacts. These choices will be made while navigating the reality that “Brexit is about more than one union”, Rycroft stressed.

The repatriation of decision-making powers on issues such as agriculture and the environment will place new pressures on intergovernmental relations at a time when there will be a need for government to rework policy to demonstrate “consistently and vividly that the union continues to work for all its parts.” This will require a reappraisal of how the UK handles regional disparities and institutional asymmetries and may require the imbuing of local structures with additional powers to help reconnect people and policies.

“How we address these issues will be determinative of how the UK is seen in the world, how it functions itself as a union and indeed whether it will be a union, and the nature of the governance process and its relationship to place”, he said.

Mr Rycroft was joined on stage by Professor Michael Kenny and Professor Diane Coyle of the Bennett Institute of Public Policy at Cambridge.

While praising Mr Rycroft for giving weight to the role of identity questions in post-Brexit policymaking, Professor Kenny emphasised that there was a need for policy makers and researchers to take a “more integrated approach.” Highlighting that “any version of Brexit…has the potential to accentuate legitimacy questions,” Kenny emphasised a need to “look at politics in a more evidentiary based way.”

Kenny called for a return to the evidence base to foster deeper understanding of factors driving citizens’ decisions as policymakers seek to rebuild political trust, and face questions about shared powers, devolution, and whether political institutions are fit for purpose.

Please click on the link below to hear the full panel discussion, or download the text here.


Mr Rycroft was recently appointed to the Bennett Institute as a distinguished honorary researcher, and will be hosting a conversation on The makings of Brexit and the road ahead at Clare College on 3 October October 2019.

CSaP facilitates dialogue between policy professionals and academics to improve the use of evidence. Learn more here.

Philip Rycroft

Bennett Institute for Public Policy, University of Cambridge

  • 26 June 2019, 9:30am

    CSaP Annual Conference 2019

    CSaP's Annual Conference will bring together members of our network from government, academia and elsewhere to discuss some of the policy challenges we have worked on over the past year.