The EU’s ‘strategic partnership’ with China in a post-Brexit world: Recalibrating internal dynamics and facing up to external challenges

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Abstract

The UK has played a critical role in shaping EU–China relations. Policymakers need to carefully consider the extent to which Brexit will weaken the EU’s collective power – shifting the balance in China’s favour – and impact prospects for increasing EU involvement in East Asia. Brexit arrives at a moment when negotiations for an ambitious bilateral investment agreement continue – with an eye on an eventual free trade agreement – while EU policymakers increasingly perceive challenges arising from the expansion of China’s global presence, exemplified by the Belt and Road Initiative, the creation of alternative international institutions, and its behaviour in the South China Sea disputes. As both the EU and China emerge as global powers, the significance of their relationship’s trajectory extends beyond bilateral confines. I analyse how the relationship’s contemporary dynamics are playing out and likely to evolve. Assessing the impact of Brexit on the relative power balance, specifically the EU27’s collective economic, military and political power, sets the scene for mapping out the ‘state of play’ in four crucial issue areas, highlighting the UK’s preferences and input. This leads to consideration of how the loss of resources and shifting constellation of preferences among the EU27 could affect the attainment of strategic objectives. I argue that while Brexit does not fundamentally disrupt the EU–China relationship, it will weaken the EU’s capacity to respond to China’s rise and necessitates a recalibration to the new constellation of Member State preferences and reduced resources.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalEurope and the World: A Law Review
Volume4
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2020

Keywords

  • Brexit
  • Foreign policy
  • balance of power
  • EU-China relations
  • UK-China relations

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