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Benchmarking Brexit: Norway and the Legitimacy of UK-EU relations after Brexit (BENCHMARK)

How do we arrange relations between EU members and non-member democracies in ways that secure core standards of democratic legitimacy? Will Brexit aggravate this difficulty? 

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About the project

The European Union (EU) is the main source of shared political and legal order in contemporary Europe. It shapes the political, economic and security systems under which all European democracies live. Yet it is structurally difficult to arrange relations between EU members and non-member democracies in ways that secure core standards of democratic legitimacy for all of them.

BENCHMARK investigates whether any Brexit will aggravate that difficulty. Given that Norway has developed what is probably the most ambitious model to date for how a non-member state can co-operate with the EU, BENCHMARK will distinguish four scenarios for any Brexit in which (i) UK/EU relations break down completely or the UK and EU commit after Brexit to (ii) fewer; (iii) similar or (iv) even more obligations than Norway's present relationship with the EU.

BENCHMARK will then use the scenarios to investigate whether avoiding or replicating Norway's relationship with the EU will make any Brexit more or less legitimate: (a) in the UK as a whole; (b) in Scotland and Northern Ireland; (c) with the European Union; and (d) in Norway itself.

BENCHMARK will use official documents and parliamentary and media debates to analyse how far claims about detailed institutional implications of each of the scenarios are accepted as legitimate. BENCHMARK will likewise analyse whether there is variation in the legitimacy of the four scenarios across policies of importance to Norway: trade, security, migration, agriculture and fisheries, development aid, energy and climate.

Throughout the research, in close cooperation with project partner CICERO, climate policy will also be used as a reference case for how collective-action problems and constitutional problems can interact differently across policies to shape the legitimacy of alternative ways of structuring relations between the EU and non-member democracies after any Brexit.


BENCHMARK involves a cross-disciplinary European network of researchers that includes leading scholars on Brexit in the UK and beyond.  


BENCHMARK is financed by the Research Council of Norway’s research initiative ‘Europe in Transition’ (EUROPA).

Project period: 1 November 2018 – 31 October 2021

Tags: Brexit, Legitimacy, EEA-agreement, European Union, European integration, United Kingdom, Climate Policy
Published Oct. 23, 2018 3:33 PM - Last modified June 17, 2019 2:22 PM