Think Tanks in Britain and how they influence British Policy on Europe

Seminar Paper, 2008

16 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Definition

3. Examples
3.1 Open Europe
3.2 The Centre for Policy Studies
3.3 Center for European Reform

4. Possible ways of taking Influence
4.1 The Role of the CER in the Saint Malo case

5. Criticism

6. Conclusion

7. References

1. Introduction

'The 2007 Survey of Think Tanks' states that out of a total of 1198 think tanks in Western Europe, 283 operate from within the United Kingdom.[1] This is by far the highest number amongst the member states of the EU. There is a long tradition of think tanks in Britain. Informal groups and in-dividuals were offering political advice since the eighteenth century, maybe earlier.[2]

In this essay I try to examine some of the major British think tanks that focus on the European Union and their politics concerning the EU. Where possible, I will give evidence on how they actually influenced British policy making in terms of the EU. I will examine the possibilities of how think tanks can influence governments and public opinion and I will summarize some of the criticism on think tanks in general.

2. Definition

According to Denham and Garnett, the term 'think tank' is borrowed from Second World War military language and was originally used to describe a room where plans and strategies could be discussed safely.[3] Stone[4], Weaver and McGann[5] as well as Denham and Garnett[6] all point out that the term 'think tank' is quite difficult to define. Stone observes that the term is often used to describe any organisation conducting 'policy-related, technical or scientific research and analysis' which might be working within the government, operate as independent non-profit organisations or be profit oriented.[7] In the TTCSP report the following definition is given: "Think tanks or public policy research, analysis and engagement institutions are organizations that generate policy-oriented research, analysis and advice on domestic and international issues that helps policymakers and the public make informed decisions about public policy."[8] Weaver and McGann give a useful overview (see Table 1.1).[9] They argue that the majority of think tanks can be seen as a variation of one of the four basic types that they list.[10] Weaver and McGann differentiate between academic think tanks, contract researchers, advocacy tanks, and party think tanks.[11] They line out that most think tanks share attributes of several categories and do not fit exactly in one.[12]

Table 1.1

illustration not visible in this excerpt

It is interesting to have a look on how think tanks see themselves. Court cites the director of the PPR, Matthew Taylor:[13]

"Think-tanks are there unapologetically because we are not anything else. We are not politicians so we are freer to speak and say the unpopular, and we are freer to be critical of policies. We are not academics, so we are able to think about real issues here and now and respond quite quickly. We are not journalists, so we are able to do work in depth and reach conclusions in the round."[14]

In the 1990's and early 2000 a whole new wave of think tanks has been established. This might be so because many politicians, whose career was for one or the other reason stagnating or who have lost a good position, set up think tanks in order to relaunch their career.[15]

3. Examples

3.1 Open Europe

Open Europe calls itself an independent think tank.[16] According to the Guardian, it was set up in October 2005 by some of the UK’s leading business people.[17] On their website Open Europe describes its politics: While they see themselves as committed to european co-operation, they believe that the EU has reached a critical phase in its development.[18] Open Europe supports a radical reform of the EU based on economic liberalisation, a looser and more flexible structure, and greater transparency and accountability.[19]

Open Europe believes that it needs to be possible to return powers to member states and to delegate them to the EU again.[20] They suggest a minimum of core rules and a voluntary participation in EU policies.[21] They opt for the possibility of groups of member states to deepen integration amongst themselves within the EU framework.[22] At the same time, countries should be able to participate in or retreat from the common foreign and security policy, the border control, justice and home affairs legislation, the cross-Europe emissions trading, external aid and other EU policies.[23] In addition to that, Open Europe suggests that member states should be able to take back control of regional aid and to repeal laws which are currently held inappropriate for the internal market.[24]

Open Europe supports full transparency within the EU, including public access to documents and meetings.[25] They demand that the EU commission should lose its legislative monopoly and that national parliaments should gain real powers over EU legislation.[26] They want to abolish the Committee of the Regions and EcoSoc because they think they are unnecessary.[27] Open Europe wants to install independent professional auditors instead of the EU's anti-fraud institutions.[28]

Open Europe wants to end farm subsidies as well as trade barriers against developing countries.[29] They want to create an EU that is a constructive force for global commerce.[30] Open Europe suggests to develop a much more flexible EU in order to deal with the desire of some member states for more integration and voters demand for less.[31] Open Europe sees this as the sole way to attract Norway and Switzerland and to pacify fears about the integration of Turkey.[32]

Open Europe's executive board consists mostly of managers.[33] Amongst them are former conservative MPs as well as a former economical advisor of Labour's Tony Blair:[34] Lord Leach of Fairford serves as Chairman. He is a former Director of the British Library. He was also the first non-family partner of Rothschilds.[35] Derek Scott was Economics Advisor to Tony Blair from 1997-2003. He served as Director of European Economics at a Barclays Bank subsidiary and as Chief Economist at Shell. Derek Scott serves Open Europe as Deputy Chairman.[36] Lord Renwick of Clifton is Vice Chairman, Investment Banking of J P Morgan (Europe). Clifton was Ambassador to the United States from 1991-95. He was made a peer in 1997 for Labour.[37] A prominent and influential Conservative on the Open Europe board is Lord Salisbury, who was MP from 1979-87 and Leader of the House of Lords from 1994-97 and currently is Chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire.[38]

On its website, Open Europe does not give details about its funding.


[1] McGann, J. (2007), '2007 Survey of Think Tanks. A Summary Report', pp.11.

[2] Denham, A. & Garnett, M. (1999), 'Influence without Responsibility? Think-Tanks in Britain', in: Parliamentary

affairs, 52 (1), pp. 46.

[3] Denham, A. & Garnett, M. (1996), 'The Nature and Impact of Think Tanks in Contemporary Britain', in: Kandiah, M.

& Seldon, A. (eds.), Ideas and Think Tanks in Contemporary Britain Volume Vol. 1, pp. 44.

[4] Weaver, R. & McGann, J. (2000), 'Think Tanks and Civil Societies in a Time of Change', in: Weaver, R. & McGann, J.

(eds.), Think Tanks & Civil Societies. Catalysts for Ideas and Action, pp. 4.

[5] Denham, A. & Garnett, M. (1996), pp. 44.

[6] Stone, D. (2004), 'Introduction: think tanks, policy advice and governance', in: Stone, D. & Denham, A. (eds.), Think

Tank Traditions. Policy research and the politics of ideas, pp. 2.

[7] Stone, D. (2004), pp. 2.

[8] McGann, J. (2007), para. 1.

[9] Weaver & McGann (2000), pp. 10.

[10] Weaver & McGann (2000), pp. 8.

[11] Weaver & McGann (2000), pp. 8.

[12] Weaver, R. & McGann, J. (2000), pp. 8.

[13] Court, S. (2002), 'Think or sink - Britain might be short on basic skills but no one could say it is lacking in thinkers. Political and issues-based think-tanks have mushroomed in the past decade. But who is behind them and what influence do they have?', Public Finance, para. 6.

[14] Court, S. (2002), Para. 6.

[15] Court, S. (2002), Para. 12.

[16] Open Europe (n. D.), About us, para 1.

[17] The Guardian (n. D.), Think Tanks: Open Europe, para. 2.

[18] Open Europe (n. D.), About us, para. 2.

[19] Open Europe (n. D.), Our Vision, para. 5.

[20] Open Europe (n. D.), Our Vision, para. 2.

[21] Open Europe (n. D.), Our Vision, para. 3.

[22] Open Europe (n. D.), Our Vision, para. 3.

[23] Open Europe (n. D.), Our Vision, para. 4.

[24] Open Europe (n. D.), Our Vision, para. 4.

[25] Open Europe (n. D.), Our Vision, para. 5.

[26] Open Europe (n. D.), Our Vision, para. 5.

[27] Open Europe (n. D.), Our Vision, para. 5.

[28] Open Europe (n. D.), Our Vision, para. 5.

[29] Open Europe (n. D.), Our Vision, para. 6.

[30] Open Europe (n. D.), Our Vision, para. 6.

[31] Open Europe (n. D.), Our Vision, para. 7.

[32] Open Europe (n. D.), Our Vision, para. 8.

[33] Open Europe (n. D.), Board, n. D.

[34] Open Europe (n. D.), Board, n. D.

[35] Open Europe (n. D.), Board, n. D.

[36] Open Europe (n. D.), Board, n. D.

[37] Open Europe (n. D.), Board, n. D.

[38] Open Europe (n. D.), Board, n. D.

Excerpt out of 16 pages


Think Tanks in Britain and how they influence British Policy on Europe
University of Kassel  (Gesellschaftswissenschaften - Geschichte Nordmerikas und Großbritanniens)
Britain and the European integration process
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ISBN (eBook)
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Think, Tanks, Britain, British, Policy, Europe, Britain, European
Quote paper
Matthias Giepen (Author), 2008, Think Tanks in Britain and how they influence British Policy on Europe, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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