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Research Highlights

Sophia's Latest Research

Germany’s Zeitenwende Is at Risk (December 2023)

In an article for the Berlin Pulse, the Körber-Stiftung's flagship annual foreign policy and defence compendium, Sophia calls for Germany to strengthen its national security apparatus and to learn from the UK's Integrated Review process to enhance the emphasis it affords to its own national agency in security policy.

Read here.

First Thoughts on the Integrated Review Refresh (March 2023)

The UK Government published its 'refresh' of the Integrated Review of the UK's national security and international policy in mid-March 2023, two years after the original Integrated Review was published. Sophia assessed the key shifts in the language, tone and priorities of the refreshed strategic framework, and what they reveal about the UK Government's evolving thinking on foreign policy. She particularly highlights the new approach to China, Russia and Ukraine, climate and energy security, and the UK's relationships in Europe.

Read here.

The Geopolitics of Semiconductors (December 2022)
Industrial Policy in a Sharpening National Security Environment 

This paper explains why semiconductors have become central to the growing geopolitical tensions between China, the United States and its Western allies. It outlines how the UK has ceded much of its competitive advantage in semiconductor technology, and how best to secure the resilience of its supply chains moving forward.

Read here.

The Next Era of UK-EU Security Relations (October 2022)

This article summarises a few of the key investments the UK has made in defining its new European role and relationships since Brexit, the developments and challenges in the EU’s ambitions to become a more credible and cohesive foreign policy actor, and the prospects for formal or informal cooperation in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Read here.

Domestic and International Policy Integration

Global Britain and Levelling Up: Strengthening the UK’s Democracy, Resilience and Security

This report explores the key areas of alignment between the UK’s two major international and domestic renewal projects – Global Britain and Levelling Up – and demonstrates how, both conceptually and practically, these could work together in a mutually beneficial way. In doing so, this report aims to spark a vibrant new public conversation about how best to consolidate and advance the strengthening of our resilience at home and abroad.

Read here.

Geopolitical Research

Where Next on UK-China Engagement? 

The UK’s Evolving Priorities, Geopolitical Developments and China’s New Strategic Framework
A major new report from the British Foreign Policy Group, co-authored by the BFPG’s Director Sophia Gaston and Prof. Rana Mitter of Oxford University, warns the UK still has a long way to go before it can effectively and constructively engage with China, and secure the nation against the challenges China poses now and into the future.

Read here.

The 2021 G7 Summit: The UK’s Objectives and Assessing Outcomes

These two papers articulated the UK's key objectives in hosting the G7 Summit in 2021 in Cornwall, and then assessed the outcomes that were achieved. The papers concluded that the Summit was a test not only for the UK's leadership, but the future of the G7 format and Western cooperation more generally. Overall, they conclude that the UK and other G7 members were able to rise to the challenge of reinvigorating cooperation after a turbulent period, but that many key areas remain unresolved.

Read here. 

Harnessing our Global Footprint: Transforming the UK Government’s Engagement with the UK Diaspora

This report explores the nature and composition of the UK’s diaspora community and how best the UK Government can engage with, and harness the capabilities of, the UK’s diaspora. It outlines opportunities to enhance existing channels of connectivity and engagement and identifies new possibilities for engagement through building mutually beneficial partnerships with the UK’s diaspora community.

Read here. 

Where Next for US Foreign Policy?
How the 2020 US Presidential Elections Will Shape Multilateralism, Transatlantic Relations, and the Future of the Special Relationship

This paper sets out the potential consequences of a Biden or Trump victory in the US 2020 Presidential elections, in terms of the future of multilateralism, the ‘special relationship’ and US-EU transatlantic relations. It argues that America's social landscape will place constraints on US foreign policy moving forward, regardless of the outcome on 3 November.

Read here. 


After the Golden Age: Resetting UK-China Engagement

This comprehensive research report, co-authored with Rana Mitter, the Director of the China Centre at Oxford University, calls for a fundamental reset in the UK’s relations with China, and sets out a pragmatic conceptual framework for the British Government to develop a UK-China Engagement Strategy. It explores the ways in which the UK state, businesses, education institutions and citizens will need to strengthen their resilience to China’s influence and potential incursions, while also setting out the productive forms of engagement that could continue to flourish between Britain and China in the future. It also considers what can be learned from Australia's experiences in its own evolving relations with the authoritarian state. 

Read here.

Other related commentary:

  • Cool Heads Must Prevail in Resetting UK-China Relations - read here.

  • Why a UK-China Engagement Strategy is urgently needed - read here.

Recent Foreign Policy Analysis

  • The Case for an Ambitious British Role in Ukraine's Reconstruction - read here.

  • The Foreign Secretary's Evidence on the Work of the FCDO (June 2022) - read here.

  • Understanding China's Interests in Ukraine (April 2022) - read here.

  • The UK's New International Development Strategy - read here.

  • Making Sense of the Russian Threat to Ukraine (January 2022) - read here.

  • All Change: Britain's New Shadow Foreign Secretary - read here.

  • The Rationale and Impacts of the Beijing Olympic Boycotts - read here.

  • Westminster Should Care about the German Elections - read here.

  • What Does Success at COP26 Look Like? - read here.

  • Where to Next as the UK Government and the Aid Sector Face Off? - read here.

  • France and the UK – Common Interests and Shared Ambiguity Towards the Indo-Pacific - read here.

  • The Roots of the Allied Military Withdrawal from Afghanistan Start at Home - read here.

  • Global Britain and Levelling Up are Natural Bedfellows - read here.

  • The Integrated Review of UK Foreign Policy: 10 Key Insights - read here.

  • What will the British people make of the Integrated Review of UK Foreign Policy? - read here.

  • An Enduring Love Affair? How Britain Fell in Love with Australia - read here.

  • Global Britain and Reimagining our Relationship to our Past - read here.​

The Coronavirus Pandemic

Coming Together and Pulling Apart – the Geopolitics of Covid-19

This research report sets out the ways in which the coronavirus pandemic has reshaped geopolitical realities. It examines how major international institutions mobilised to respond to the crisis, and how the pandemic has interacted with shared global challenges, such as climate change.

Read here.

Scorched Earth: Nostalgia in the Shadow of the Coronavirus

This article explores the potential for powerful nostalgic sentiment to grow in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, as citizens look back fondly at life before the crisis.

Read here.

The Pandemic's Shadowy Underbelly

The role of conspiracy theories in the pandemic, their social and political origins, and what the nature of the conspiracies circling during this crisis tells us about the challenges facing the West on the other side.

Read here.

How Will the Pandemic Impact our Social Fabric?
Will the pandemic prove the 'Great Leveller', softening social injustices, or the grist to the mill of a new moment of national unity, after years of increasing fragmentation and polarisation? 
Read here.

COVID-19 and Populism in the West
Should we regard coronavirus as an accelerant for nationalist populist politics in the West, or simply the end of a volatile chapter? 
Read here.

Research Highlights: 2016-2020

Journalism In The Age of Populism and Polarisation:
Insights from the Migration Debate in Italy

How should journalists adapt their editorial strategies to overcome extreme polarisation and the tactics of populist politicians? LSE Arena partnered on a unique project with the Italian Newspaper Corriere della Sera and the University of Venice. We analysed different approaches to writing about migration in Italy, a highly controversial topic in the country. How can one cover such issues in a way that promotes civil engagement, enhances trust and a fact-based discourse?

(Research Contributor)

Read here.

At Home in One's Past:
Nostalgia as a Cultural and Political Force in England, France and Germany

This major three-country research project used a variety of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies to explore the rising salience of nostalgic narratives amongst citizens, and how these are being harnessed by politicians, political parties and the media. It considered the dangers posed by nostalgia-driven politics and how the myriad insecurities underpinning citizens' dissatisfaction with the existing and future social, economic and political settlements could be addressed.

Read here.

Mediating Populism:

The Media and the Rise of Populism in the UK and Germany

This report explores the challenges faced by traditional media organisations in responding to the new landscape of the ‘populist moment’. Through a unique series of anonymous, candid interviews with political journalists, producers and editors , the report peers behind the curtain at major British and German media organisations, shining light on the daily practices of journalism in the digital age. It features case studies focused on the 2016 EU Referendum and the 2017 German elections.
In partnership with Das Progressive Zentrum in Berlin.

Read here

Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself?
The Rise of a Culture and Politics of Fear in Europe

This pan-European project sought to capture a snapshot of the ways in which fear is manifesting in the social and political climate of six different member states: the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Poland and Sweden. I partnered with organisations in each of these countries to undertake research on the ground, offering of-the-moment insights into trends both common across the region, and also distinct to member states and their specific historical and political circumstances. The report then sets out a series of principles of leadership and governance to respond to this new age of anxiety – restoring strength and openness to Europe’s democracies.

Read here.

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