The Constitution Unit


Citizens' Assembly on Brexit 

The Constitution Unit led the team that hosted the Citizens' Assembly on Brexit in September 2017. 

Citizens' Assembly on Brexit

The Citizens' Assembly, which is part of the highly respected UK in a Changing Europe initiative, brought together citizens to engage in detailed, reflective and informed discussions about what the UK's post-Brexit relations with the European Union should be. 50 members of the public - who were selected using a survey company and reflected the diversity of the UK's population - met in Manchester over two weekends in September. 

Over the two weekends the Members learnt about the different options for Brexit, focusing on trade and immigration. They listened to each other, heard from and questioned a wide range of experts, and deliberated in depth. At the end of the second weekend the Assembly Members agreed recommendations. 

The summary report sets out the Assembly's recommendations. The full report sets out the recommendations and also gives detailed information on how the Assembly was formed and how it functioned.

Read the summary report

Read the full report

The project has important implications both for Brexit and for how we conduct democratic decision-making.  

  • On Brexit, the majority of Assembly Members favoured a bespoke trade deal between the UK and the EU, but were clear that, if such a deal proves unattainable, they would prefer the UK to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union than leave the EU with no deal. They wanted the UK to maintain free movement of labour, but to use the controls that are available within the terms of the Single Market and make other changes that would reduce immigration and mitigate its costs.
  • On democracy, the Assembly demonstrated that deliberative exercises such as this can work very well even on highly polarised issues. Citizens' assemblies and other similar bodies deserve to be used again on Brexit and other issues, particularly where problems are widely acknowledged but solutions are difficult to find.

Further information about the Assembly, including all the slides and briefing papers from the Assembly weekends, are available on the Assembly's website.

Key Personnel

The assembly is led from the Constitution Unit at UCL. The project team also includes academics from the Universities of Southampton and Westminster, and we have two project partners, The Electoral Reform Society (Impact and Public Engagement) and Involve (Assembly Delivery).

For the full list of team members visit the dedicated citizens' assembly website.

Key personnel include:

  • Professor Alan Renwick, Director (Principal Investigator) of the Citizens' Assembly on Brexit research project and Deputy Director of the Constitution Unit
  • Professor Graham Smith, co-investigator on the Citizens' Assembly on Brexit project and Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster
  • Professor Meg Russell, co-investigator on the Citizens' Assembly on Brexit project and Director of the Constitution Unit
  • Dr Rebecca McKee, Research Associate for the Citizens' Assembly on Brexit
  • Edd Rowe, Project Administrator for the Citizens' Assembly on Brexit
Project Funding

The Citizens' Assembly project is part of the UK in a Changing Europe initiative, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The UK in a Changing Europe initiative, directed by Professor Anand Menon of King's College London, exists to provide an authoritative, non-partisan and impartial reference point for those looking for information, insights and analysis about UK-EU relations.

The ESRC is the UK's largest organisation funding social and economic research. This non-departmental public body (NDPB) supports independent, high quality research with impact ranging across business, the public sector and civil society.

Blog Posts
In the Media
  • Reasons to be Cheerful - Ed Miliband discussed the Unit-led Citizens' Assembly on Brexit in depth on his podcast with the Assembly's lead facilitator, Sarah Allan. Published on 4 February 2018
  • The Guardian - Nicholas Gruen explores the assembly and its results. Published 16 January 2018
  • The Guardian - Polly Toynbee discusses the results of the assembly. Published 14 December 2017
  • Political Insight - 'Citizens' Assemblies: A Better Way of Doing Democracy?' by Professor Alan Renwick. Published 10 November 2017
  • Prospect - '"No deal" Brexiteers don't have the backing of the public' by Professor Alan Renwick. Published 25 October 2017
  • Jazz FM - Professor Alan Renwick was interviewed about the assembly on the Business Breakfast programme on 4 October 2017
  • Financial Times (£) - 'Cutting through the Brexit cacophony' by James Blitz. Published 3 October 2017
  • The Irish Times - Professor Alan Renwick quoted on the results of the assembly. Published 2 October 2017
  • The Times (£) - 'A citizens' assembly can help settle the big EU questions' by Professor Alan Renwick. Published on 4 September 2017
  • Politics.co.uk - 'A citizens' assembly could help settle the big Brexit questions' by Professor Alan Renwick. Published on 29 August 2017
Academic articles

'What kind of Brexit do voters want? Lessons from the Citizens' Assembly on Brexit'. Political Quarterly 89, no. 4 (October–December 2018), 649–58. By Alan Renwick, Sarah Allan, Will Jennings, Rebecca McKee, Meg Russell, and Graham Smith.

'Citizens' Assemblies: A Better Way of Doing Democracy?' Political Insight 8, no.2, (November 2017), 24-27. By Alan Renwick.



Photos from the launch of the Citizens' Assembly on Brexit in parliament 

Video footage from the Assembly weekends


The UK in a Changing Europe: Brexit and public opinion conference, 31 January 2018

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