Brexit and UK international development policy

Simon Lightfoot, Emma Mawdsley, Balázs Szent-Iványi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article we explore the implications of Brexit for the UK and the EU's development policies and strategic directions, focusing on the former. While it is likely that the operational process of disentangling the UK from the various development institutions of the EU will be relatively straightforward, the choices that lie ahead about whether and how to cooperate thereafter are more complex. Aid and development policy touches on a wide range of interests—security, trade, climate change, migration, gender rights, and so on. We argue that Brexit will accelerate existing trends within UK development policy, notably towards the growing priority of private sector-led economic growth strategies and blended finance tools. There are strong signals that UK aid will be cut, as successive secretaries of state appear unable to persuade a substantial section of the public and media that UK aid and development policy serves UK interests in a variety of ways.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)517–524
Number of pages8
JournalPolitical Quarterly
Issue number3
Early online date9 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Lightfoot, S., Mawdsley, E. and Szent-Iványi, B. (2017), Brexit and UK International Development Policy. The Political Quarterly, in press which has been published in final form at doi:10.1111/1467-923X.12369. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.


  • international development
  • EU
  • UK
  • foreign aid


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