Brexit: Why the UK and Why Now?
A lecture by Dr James Dennison, European University Institute
On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom held a referendum to gauge public support for continued British membership of the European Union, with a majority voting for Leave. This outcome represents a radical departure from over 40 years of British involvement in European integration, and a vote of no confidence in the European project itself. As such, understanding the causes of Britain’s momentous decision, as well as its potential ramifications for the UK, the EU and their future relationship to one another, is of central importance. Regarding the causes of Britain’s decision to leave the EU, I seek to answer two questions: why Britain rather than any other country?, and why now rather than at any point in the past? I show that existing explanations—focusing on austerity, xenophobia and the ‘losers of globalisation’—are methodologically unsound and can be easily dismissed when tested correctly. Rather, Britain voted to leave the EU because its electorate’s and elite’s deep-seated and long-term lack of European identity coupled with recent political changes, primarily deeper integration and mass immigration, made ‘Brexit’ a reasonably likely outcome. Regarding the implications of the decision, I consider the future of Britain’s territorial integrity, its political and economic prospects, and its relationship with the EU, before then speculating on its effects on EU institutions and the wider European project.
James Dennison is a Research Fellow at the Migration Policy Centre of the European University Institute in Florence, where he is also the Associate Director of the Observatory of Public Attitudes to Migration. His research interests include European politics, attitudinal formation, political behaviour and quantitative research methods. His research has been published in numerous academic journals such as Journal of European Public Policy, European Union Politics, Party Politics, Mediterranean Politics and Parliamentary Affairs and he is the author of The Greens in British Politics (Palgrave, 2016). He was awarded a PhD by the European University Institute in 2017 and previously held positions at the University of Oxford and the University of Sheffield, where he taught quantitative methods. He tweets @JamesRDennison.
Attendance is free of charge, registration at email@example.com is however compulsory. Registered attendees receive the speaker’s paper. Coffee, tea and water are available. The lecture will be followed by drinks in the hall of the 3rd floor.
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