Graduate Centre for Europe reassessed Britain's relations with Europe during its 11th Annual Conference

GCfE 11th Annual Conference

On 11 and 12 May 2017, the Graduate Centre for Europe held its 11th Annual Conference on the topic “Reassessing Britain’s Relations with Europe: From Role-Model to Enfant Terrible?” The event brought together 14 postgraduate and early career researchers to discuss the UK’s complex relationship with the continent from different disciplinary perspectives; it was organised by Bruno Theodoro Luciano, Dr Julian Pänke and Maren Rohe.

Does Brexit mean that Britain’s cultural, economic and political ties with the continent will unravel, or can we regard Brexit as a continuation of historical developments? The guiding question was addressed in five panels. The first panel ‘Arts and Exchange between Britain and the continent’ highlighted the relevance of cultural diplomacy and reality of hybrid identities whose fluidity negates simple answers. Discussing ‘Migration and Right-wing populism’, the second panel’s contributions emphasised the role of media in shaping our understanding of key issues and shared British-European interests beyond Brexit. The third panel ‘Social Europe’ explored the complex relationship of the Labour party with EU-rope and different socialist parties in Europe with the UK. The ‘Politics of Brexit’ panel discussed various policy implications of Brexit in Britain and the EU. The UK’s ambivalent relation with supranational institutions at different times of history was addressed in the fifth panel on ‘Early political integration of the UK with Europe’.

On Thursday, Rebecca Adler-Nissen delivered a keynote speech on “Opting Out of the European Union: Towards a Practice Turn in EU Studies”. She invited us to ‘zoom in’ on the daily experiences within Brussels’ EU institutions and advocated a differentiated understanding of European integration not necessarily captured in the established integration theories.

On Friday, Ann Thomson gave a second keynote on “Land of liberty or land of libertines?” in which she explored two potential European perceptions of Britain as role model or enfant terrible during the 18th century. By exploring French views of Britain, as represented in arts and philosophy, it became apparent that both interpretations exist at the very same time and depend often on political instrumental interests of the observer.

The roundtable in cooperation with the European Studies research group invited scholars from different disciplines to discuss the question: “Is the UK European, and what does that mean?” All contributions of the conference demonstrated the tremendous benefits of a cross-disciplinary engagement with the topic.