On 31 January 2020 the UK formally withdrew from the EU, with disengagement to become effective after a period of transition and uncertainty, aggravated by a global health crisis. By analysing the shifting profile of British aid since the Brexit vote and also the terms of the withdrawal, this article intends to shed light on its future course. Building on previous research, three scenarios on post-Brexit aid are considered in section 1: the nationalist; the realist; and the cosmopolitan. Considering the most recent changes in the UK’s aid budgets and policy papers, it can be concluded that the country has a realist approach to development cooperation (see section 2). Finally, the paper assesses the impact these changes will be likely to have on European and global aid, ceteris paribus (section 3).
Our data show that the UK’s volume of aid has remained stable since the Brexit vote in 2016. This has come hand in hand with a shifting pattern of aid allocation: aid provided for health research programmes in the UK, companies and universities has increased, while aid directed at LDCs and DFID programmes has decreased. Our main argument is that the changes match a realist scenario, rather than a cosmopolitan or even a nationalist approach, which would result in decreasing aid and weaker links with partner countries.
As a result, and despite the UK’s new allocation pattern to countries, sectors and channels, there should be no major impact on aid at the European and global levels.
Brexit; European Union; United Kingdom; development cooperation; aid
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