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News Navigating uncharted waters: The EU referendum, the spirit of Paris, and the SDGs

IIED's director Andrew Norton argues that a spirit of internationalism must live on in the UK following the seismic shock of Brexit.


"IIED was formed with an international purpose – to promote, as Barbara Ward, our founder, put it, "the care and maintenance of a small planet". Our driving motivation is to promote social and environmental justice on a global scale.

So we have serious concerns at this moment. What will the implications of the UK leaving the EU be for taking forward the Paris Agreement on climate change? Will the UK still be a leading voice for global development and humanitarian action?

Might Brexit be the leading edge of a populist revolt against the multilateral institutions which are necessary to tackle global challenges – inequality, conflict, trans-national criminality, cyber security, human mobility, protecting the natural world and, above all, climate change?

Multilateral institutions can be slow, cumbersome, and often not particularly democratic. They are easy scapegoats. For example, no one setting out to design effective global governance with a blank sheet of paper would come up with the current United Nations system. But it is what we have, and we need it to work as well as it possibly can.  

So my first wish for a post-referendum UK is for it to stay committed to multilateralism, global solidarity and being at the forefront of addressing global challenges. The UK outside the EU should remain as strong and constructive a voice for global climate, development and humanitarian action as it was inside.

But there are obvious political risks to that. The commitment to maintain the UK's international development budget will certainly be a contested area – and an important indicator of whether an internationalist spirit lives on."

Contact information n/a
News type Inbrief
File link
Source of information iied
Keyword(s) Brexit, climate
Geographical coverage United Kingdom,
News date 29/06/2016
Working language(s) ENGLISH