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Open Europe is a policy think tank with offices in London and Brussels, which describes itself as being "non-partisan and independent" but has also been described as "eurosceptic". Its current director is Henry Newman, a former special advisor to Conservative Party politician Michael Gove.

Open Europe
New Open Europe logo.png
Formation2005; 14 years ago (2005)
Legal statusPrivate company
PurposeOriginal research into the UK's relationship with the EU
HeadquartersLondon, United Kingdom Brussels
Henry Newman
WebsiteOpen Europe
Open Europe's London Office
William Hague giving a speech to Open Europe on 16 July 2013
Open Europe's EU War Game negotiation simulation with former Irish PM John Bruton

Its stated mission is to "conduct rigorous analysis and produce recommendations on which to base the UK's new relationship with the EU and its trading relationships with the rest of the world." It promotes democratically grounded economic, trade and investment policies which foster growth, employment and freedom under the rule of law.[1]

The think-tank was set up in 2005 prior to the Lisbon Treaty by a group of British business to oppose further centralisation of power in the EU. It was a proponent of a flexible model for further European integration, allowing for EU member states to integrate with each other to different degrees and for powers to also be returned from the EU to member states.[2] Although in favour of the UK's EU membership, it decided not to support David Cameron's campaign to stay in the EU, adopting instead a neutral stance in the 2016 EU referendum in the UK.[1]

In the wake of the UK's vote to leave the EU, Open Europe's research programme has shifted to focus on three key aspects: the UK's new relationship with the EU, including trade, security and political cooperation; the most important opportunities for new trading relationships with nations outside the EU; productive international cooperation across areas such as immigration, research and development, cross-border investment and financial services.[1]

Open Europe conducts research; organises events; and sends out a daily European press summary compiled by a multilingual research team. It is active on social media.

Open Europe has been described as "the Eurosceptic group that controls British coverage of the EU" by The Economist magazine.[3] It was awarded "International Think Tank of the Year 2012" by Prospect magazine.[4]



Open Europe was launched on 20 October 2005 by Rodney Leach in London by business people to oppose the return of the then EU Constitutional Treaty that became the Lisbon Treaty, Open Europe's stated aim was "to contribute positive new thinking to the debate about the future direction of the European Union".[1] Rodney Leach and many of the founding supporters of Open Europe had previously backed the Business for Sterling campaign to stay out of the Euro.

Directors of Open Europe have included Neil O'Brien (2005-2008), Lorraine Mullally (2008-2010), Mats Persson (2010-2015), and Stephen Booth and Raoul Ruparel as joint Directors (2015-17).

The think tank opposed the Lisbon Treaty and supported granting a referendum on the treaty through its "I Want A Referendum" campaign.

Open Europe was neutral during the 2016 referendum campaign on EU membership. Its aim in doing so was to "strip the debate of adversarial hyperbole and substitute solid factual ground on which the British people can make this important decision." [5] Since the referendum, it has produced a new report, entitled "Striking a Balance", which sets out its vision for a new UK-EU partnership after Brexit.[6] It has also recently produced a report on the economic consequences of a No Deal Brexit and how they could be mitigated.[7]

Management and fundingEdit

Open Europe is a private company limited by guarantee without share capital.[8] It is run by Henry Newman, a former special advisor to Michael Gove, while its current chairman is Simon Wolfson, the chief executive of the clothing retailer Next plc.

Open Europe receives no funding from any government, the EU, NGO or public company. It is funded entirely by private donations and a partial list of its supporters is available on its website.[9]

The group is nominally independent and does not have a partisan affiliation. Its supporters include business people operating in every sector and across both the UK and Europe, as well as former diplomats and high-profile figures from across the professions.[9]


Open Europe regularly publishes original research[10] aimed at promoting new ideas among key EU policy makers, business people and academics. It also sends out a daily press summary, compiled by a multilingual research team, covering the key news from around Europe.[11] Open Europe's experts regularly appear in the international media, providing analysis on Brexit and UK and EU politics.[12]

Open Europe holds regular seminars and discussions on Brexit and EU reform. Speakers at Open Europe events have included William Hague,[13] Vincent Cable,[14] Gisela Stuart,[14] Dominic Raab,[15] John Bruton,[16] Norman Lamont,[17] James Brokenshire,[18] Elmar Brok,[17] Nick Boles,[19] and Malcolm Rifkind.[16]

In April 2018, Open Europe held an event with the Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg on Brexit, the EU, and Conservative Party politics. At the event, Mogg described Prime Minister Theresa May's plan for a "customs partnership" with the EU as "cretinous". He argued that any post-Brexit immigration system that gave preference to EU migrants was "racist", and also criticised the House of Lords for rejecting parts of the EU Withdrawal Bill, saying: "There is a problem with the House of Lords in that it is very condescending towards the democratic vote. They seem to think that they know better than 17.4million people... their lordships are playing with fire and it would be a shame to burn down the historic house”.[20] The event was extensively covered in the national media.[21][22][23]

The organisation has previously conducted polling on EU-related issues at both at a national and European level, including a two-part Open Europe/ YouGov Deutschland poll on "German Voters Sentiments on Europe" ahead of the 2013 German federal election,[24] and an Open Europe/ ComRes poll investigating the UK electorate's relationship with the EU.[25]

In 2013 Open Europe organised public simulated negotiations over reform of the European Union, and the UK's relationship with it, in a so-called "wargame".[26]

The think tank has published several studies on the impact of regulation, including a 2010 study analysing more than 2,000 Impact Assessments. It estimated that in 2009, EU regulation introduced since 1998 cost the UK economy £19.3 billion, accounting for 59% of the total cost of regulation in Britain in that year.[27] The study also estimated the cumulative cost of EU regulation since 1998 at £124 billion, 71% of the total cost.[28]

In 2008, research by Open Europe claimed that 96 percent of the text of the Lisbon Treaty is the same as the rejected European Constitution, based on a side-by-side comparison of the two texts.[29]

EU Reform ConferenceEdit

On 15–16 January 2014, Open Europe and the Fresh Start Project organised a "Pan-European Conference for EU reform" for delegates from the UK and Europe.[30] The Conference was opened by the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivering his first set-speech on Europe while in Government,[31] and marking the first major speech on Europe by a senior UK Conservative Minister since the UK Prime Minister David Cameron's 'Bloomberg' speech in January 2013.[32]

Additional speakers included Maria Damanaki the European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs;[33] Rachida Dati, a Member of the European Parliament, the Mayor of the 7th arrondissement of Paris and Deputy President of the French Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) Party;[34] Frits Bolkestein, Former European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services; Peter Norman, Swedish Minister for Financial Markets;[35] and Klaus-Peter Willsch, a German CDU Politician and member of the Bundestag.

Dr Imke Henkel of German weekly Focus labelled the conference "potentially historic" by "leading towards a constructive British Europe policy, which provides the important impetus towards the necessary reforms of the European Community”.[36] Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Iain Martin called it a “a hugely uplifting gathering”, which "would simply not have taken place before the euro crisis almost brought about the collapse of the single currency".[37]


The organisation has historically been seen as "eurosceptic," but was previously in favour of the UK remaining a member of a reformed EU.[38] However, despite its former director campaigning for the UK to remain in the EU it was nominally neutral in the UK EU referendum campaign in 2016.[1]

In June 2018, Open Europe published a report entitled Striking a Balance: A blueprint for the future UK-EU economic partnership.[6] The report argues that the UK should seek to remain closely aligned with the EU in goods regulations and trade after Brexit, but that it should be able to diverge in financial services regulations. The authors argue: “Giving up some control – or sovereignty – over goods regulation, is a price worth paying for strong market access. Manufacturers in highly regulated industries often follow EU rules anyway, in some cases even in the United States. But seeking to replicate the patchy Single Market in services would require the UK to give away too much control over its economy, for too little gain."

Open Europe was opposed to the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union, saying it wastes money, distributes it inequitably (with not enough going to environmental protection), de-insentivises modernisation, and represents a major waste of resources that could be spent elsewhere. The group advocated full liberalisation, but conceded in a 2012 report that this was not politically realistic, and so proposed a compromise.[39] They proposed a system of "agri-environmental allowances" which would be allocated according to environmental criteria and administered nationally. After complying with minimum standards, farmers would be free to opt out. EU level funding for rural development should be limited to only the poorest members states. Some agriculture related R&D funding would continue.


The Conservative MP Kemi Badenoch wrote in December 2017 that "Open Europe has a long tradition of producing high quality research and analysis," and described its research on public attitudes to immigration as "excellent."[40] Elsewhere, former Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont has praised Open Europe's vision of a future UK-EU relationship, arguing that its proposals "[deserve] to be considered both in the UK and EU."[6]

Responding in October 2018 to Open Europe's report[7] on the long-term economic consequences of a No Deal Brexit, the academics Anand Menon and Jonathan Portes said that Open Europe had successfully used "mainstream modelling techniques and assumptions that, while certainly debatable and arguably overoptimistic, are not as bad as some. They are not remotely comparable to the simple factual, logical and legal errors that enabled some 'economists for free trade' to produce projections that no serious trade economist regards as credible at a Commons event." However, they argued that Open Europe had failed to pay sufficient attention to the short-term consequences of No Deal: "Should Britain leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement, then the immediate economics – and politics – of this would be far, far more disruptive and damaging than the Open Europe report implies." [41]

Writing in The Daily Telegraph in 2014, journalist Louise Armitstead argued that Open Europe had "developed a reputation for coming up with practical solutions" and showed there was "increasingly a solid and practical case for reform. Free trade and pro-markets politicians like Osborne can now criticise Brussels with a real chance of being listened to."[42]

In December 2012, Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ran a feature on Open Europe, in which its London correspondent wrote that Open Europe was "leaving its mark on the British discussion about Europe like no other". He added that it "dishes it out to all sides. EU critics eagerly seize on calculations of how much Brussels regulations have cost the UK or how much member states could save from reforming the EU's regime of agricultural subsidies. However, the same people are left disappointed when Open Europe produces figures and arguments advocating against Greece being forced out of the euro, or when it defends the freedom of movement for European workers which is controversial to many in Britain."[43] In 2012 The Guardian's live blog described Open Europe as "indispensable",[44] while in the same year Polish daily Rzeczpospolita described Open Europe as "an influential liberal think-tank".[45]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e "Our Vision". Open Europe. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  2. ^ Persson, Mats (10 July 2012). "Britain should pick-and-mix over Europe instead of apeing Norway". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  3. ^ Charlemagne (31 March 2010). "Open Europe: the Eurosceptic group that controls British coverage of the EU". The Economist. London. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  4. ^ "The winners of Prospect's 2012 Think Tank of the Year Awards". Prospect. London. 11 July 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  5. ^ "Open Europe's Stance in the Upcoming EU Referendum". Open Europe. 1 March 2016. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  6. ^ a b c "Striking a Balance". Open Europe. 4 June 2018. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  7. ^ a b "No Deal: The economic consequences and how they could be mitigated". Open Europe. 15 October 2018. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  8. ^ "Open Europe Limited". Companies House. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Supporters". Open Europe. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  10. ^ "Open Europe Intelligence". Open Europe. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  11. ^ "Daily Shakeup". Open Europe. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  12. ^ "Impact". Open Europe. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  13. ^ "William Hague at Open Europe summer reception". Open Europe. 19 July 2013. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  14. ^ a b "Discussion with Gisela Stuart and Vincent Cable". Open Europe. 15 June 2006. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  15. ^ "Discussing Brexit: In Conversation with Dominic Raab". Open Europe. 4 October 2018. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  16. ^ a b "Open Europe's 'EU Wargames': What did they tell us?". Open Europe. 26 January 2016. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  17. ^ a b "Brexit: Reconciling Different Perspectives". Open Europe. 10 April 2018. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  18. ^ ""How much power should the EU have over Justice and Home Affairs?"". Open Europe. 14 September 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  19. ^ "After Salzburg: What next?". Open Europe. 9 October 2018. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  20. ^ "Theresa May lacks 'enthusiasm' for Brexit and her plans for a customs partnership are 'completely cretinous', says Jacob Rees-Mogg". The Telegraph. 24 April 2018. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  21. ^ "Jacob Rees-Mogg: I agree with Barnier on UK's 'cretinous' customs plan". Politico. 24 April 2018. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  22. ^ "Brexit: May's 'customs partnership' idea cretinous, says Rees-Mogg". BBC News. 24 April 2018. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  23. ^ "Rees-Mogg: Peers risk 'burning down' House of Lords by thwarting Brexit". Sky News. 24 April 2018. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  24. ^ "German voters say Chancellor should try to devolve EU powers back to member states". Open Europe/You Gov Deutschland. 17 September 2014. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  25. ^ "New Open Europe/ComRes poll: UK public overwhelmingly supports new EU relationship over withdrawal – but UKIP is set to win European elections" (PDF). Open Europe/ComRes. 24 April 2018. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  26. ^ Griffiths, Peter (11 December 2013). "'War game' highlights risks of Britain's EU exit". Reuters. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  27. ^ Groom, Brian (29 March 2010). "Tories' red tape aims miss target, says study". Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  28. ^ Sarah Gaskell; Mats Persson (2010). "Still out of Control? Measuring eleven years of EU regulation". Open Europe. ISBN 978-1-907668-15-9. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  29. ^ A guide to the constitutional treaty (PDF). London: Open Europe. 2008. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  30. ^ "Pan European Conference for EU Reform". Open Europe. 15 January 2014. Archived from the original on 18 January 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  31. ^ "Extracts from the Chancellor's speech on Europe". HM Treasury. 15 January 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  32. ^ "EU Speech at Bloomberg". Cabinet Office and Prime Minister's Office, 10 Downing Street. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  33. ^ "Ms Maria DAMANAKI speaks at the Pan-European Conference for EU reform organised by Fresh Start Project and Open Europe, London". European Information and Research Network on Parliamentary History. 15 January 2014. Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  34. ^ "Rachida Dati backs Cameron on EU". BBC News. 15 January 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  35. ^ "Norman: Tragedi om Storbritannien lämnar EU". Sveriges Radio. 15 January 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  36. ^ "Wie die Engländer lernen wollen, Europa zu lieben". Focus. 21 January 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
  37. ^ "Leadership hopeful George Osborne gives the Tories some meat on the EU". Sunday Telegraph. 18 January 2014. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  38. ^ Watt, Nicholas (10 June 2012). "Britain should stay in EU, says report by Eurosceptic thinktank". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  39. ^ "More for Less: Making the EU's farm policy work for growth and the environment". Open Europe. 27 February 2012. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  40. ^ "Beyond the Westminster Bubble: What people really think about immigration". Open Europe. 21 December 2017. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  41. ^ "Another report on a no-deal Brexit; another excuse to ignore the damage". The Guardian. 17 October 2018. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  42. ^ Armitstead, Louise (18 January 2014). "The EU is ripe for change, says Open Europe". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
  43. ^ Buchsteiner, Jochen (20 December 2012). "Austeilen nach allen Seiten" (PDF). Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung (in German). Archived from the original on 22 January 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  44. ^ "Eurozone crisis live". The Guardian Live Blog. London. 28 November 2012.
  45. ^ "Balcerowicz: rescue in the eurozone is no substitute for reform". Rzeczpospolita (in Polish). Warsaw. 29 August 2012.

External linksEdit