Assessing change in economic management, welfare, work and democracy in the context of Brexit

This session brought together the findings of the four earlier thematic seminars, in dialogue with policymakers and key economic and civil society actors. The seminar was based in a leading Brussels-based think-tank, providing an excellent opportunity to facilitate further discussion between policy-focused and academic-focused actors from across the European Union. It will identify common concerns, likely trajectories, and the potential for constructive academic/policy-sphere collaboration over future political economy alternatives - in terms of regulation, welfare, work, and democracy. Given the impact that the recent referendum result on British membership in the European Union had upon the themes that the seminar had focused on, the discussion focused on how this would impact upon the trends that had been discussed in each of the seminars.


The seminar kicked off with a presentation by Paul Lewis (Birmingham) and David Bailey (Birmingham) of the main themes and lessons gained from the seminar series, highlighting in particular the ways in which the different themes fitted together into an overall trajectory of change, leading from the period prior to the crisis up until the present, and highlighting some of the key problems faced in the present.

The first substantive panel - Brexit and Welfare – heard presentations from Magnus Ryner (KCL), Dan Wincott (Cardiff), Amandine Crespy (ULB), and Anneliese Dodds MEP. Magnus Ryner gave an overview of some of the key findings that we had made in the earlier seminar held at Kings College, highlighting especially how the strained nature of the post-crisis welfare state had in part potentially contributed towards the Brexit vote. Dan Wincott contrasted the developments in the Brexit context with some of the broader issues affecting the welfare state over the past two decades, in particular highlighting the different approaches to the welfare state by the Labour Government before the crisis and the Coalition government during the so-called age of austerity. Amandine Crespy discussed the way in which her research highlighted the ongoing problems associated with the construction of a more substantive welfare state at the EU-level. Finally, Anneliese Dodds MEP was able to share her experiences as a member of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, and the way in which the austerity agenda that had swept Europe following 2008 had produced a number of important welfare-related challenges for her constituents.

The second panel - Brexit and Work – focused on the way in which the trajectories for change that had been noted in the earlier Sheffield ESRC seminar were developing in important and interesting ways as a result of the recent referendum result. Jason Heyes (Sheffield) highlighted some of the possibilities for deregulation that might occur within the British labour market as a result of the Brexit (PDF 93KB). Bela Galgoczi (ETUI) highlighted the importance of labour market regulation, and the experiences of the ETUI in seeking to advance such an agenda within the institutions of the European Union (PDF 104KB). Finally, Scott Lavery (Sheffield) provided an account of his research into the changing and sometimes contradictory perceptions of different sections of the British business community with regard to the impact that Brexit might have (PDF 720KB).

The third panel - The Future of Work and citizenship – provided an opportunity for the seminar participants to consider in more depth the impact that changing notions of work, the workplace, and workplace-based political participation were having in the context of the post-crisis, post-Brexit society. Owen Parker (Sheffield) gave an overview of the key arguments running across the mainstream left and centre-left of the political spectrum with regard to immigration and its impact on labour market conditions. Phoebe Moore (Middlesex) highlighted the impact that Brexit could have for labour market legislation and employment protection, creating a potentially damaging impact upon the working lives of a range of those based within the British labour market. Vera Weghmann (Nottingham) drew on her doctoral research to talk about the way in which different attempts to organise precarious workers were developing within the post-crisis context (PDF 1.2MB). Finally, Nick Srnicek (City) discussed the impact that recent trends in mechanisation and digitalisation were changing the contemporary workplace and labour market and the potential to challenge these trends (PDF 1.7MB).

In the final session, David Bailey (Birmingham) and Louisa Parks (Lincoln) launched a special issue that they had been working on for the past eighteen months, and which had been facilitated by the ESRC seminar series, as most of the papers were authored by seminar participants and earlier versions had been presented at one of the seminars. The special issue is titled, Contention in the age of austerity in Europe: the emergence of new alternatives?, and has been published with the journal Comparative European Politics. The session included presentations of two of the papers in the special issue. Owen Worth (Limerick) presented his article, ‘The battle for hegemony: Resistance and neoliberal restructuring in post-crisis Europe’, which explored the different alternative political trajectories developing within the post-crisis context. Rossana Cillo (Venice) presented her co-authored article (with Lucia Pradella, KCL), titled, ‘New immigrant struggles in Italy’s logistics industry’, which looked at the way in which new patterns of workplace-based contestation were developing in post-2008 context Italy.

In response to the themes raised by the special issue, FEPS Senior Research Fellow, Ania Skrzypek, outlined what she viewed as the key problems facing contemporary democracies in the wake of the post-2008 crisis, the so-called ‘age of austerity’, and the more recent Brexit vote and election of Donald Trump as US President.

The seminar therefore enabled a widespread dissemination of some of the important findings of the seminar series, as well as facilitating a discussion of how these trends will interact with the more recent development of the Brexit vote. The seminar brought together scholars from across Britain and the European Union, as well as practitioners and politicians based in Brussels.

Assessing change in economic management, welfare, work and democracy in the context of Brexit

Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), Rue Montoyer 40, 1000 Brussels, 10 November, 2016


09.45 - 10.15 Introduction/ Key ideas from the series (Paul Lewis, David Bailey)

10.15 – 11.30 Brexit and Welfare

  • Magnus Ryner (KCL)
  • Dan Wincott (Cardiff)
  • Amandine Crespy (ULB)
  • Anneliese Dodds MEP

11.45 – 13.00 Brexit and Work

  • Jason Heyes (Sheffield)
  • Bela Galgoczi (ETUI)
  • Scott Lavery (Sheffield)

14.00 – 15.30 The Future of Work and citizenship

  • Owen Parker (Sheffield)
  • Phoebe Moore (Middlesex)
  • Vera Weghmann (Nottingham)
  • Nick Srnicek (City

15.45 - 16.45 Democracy in Europe, launch of the special issue: Contention in the age of austerity: new alternatives, Comparative European Politics

  • David Bailey (Birmingham)
  • Louisa Parks (Lincoln)
  • Owen Worth (Limerick)
  • Rossana Cillo (Venice)

16.45-17.00 Comment on the state of democracy in Europe: Ania Skrzypek (FEPS)

More information

Find out more about the ESRC Seminar Series: Understanding the Post-Crisis Landscape.