Destined to Brexit? British pathways to membership in the European Communities 1945-73

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Abstract

This article explores whether and how the United Kingdom was destined to Brexit before it even joined the European Communities in 1973. Drawing on archival sources, media reports and literature about Britain’s arduous relationship with ‘Europe’, it argues that four features made the Brexit outcome more likely. They were the accession to the EC as a measure of last resort which prevented the construction of a new sustainable narrative about a brighter future in ‘Europe’; the political elites’ use of the issue of EC membership or further integration for short term party gains; highly exaggerated hopes that membership in and by itself would cure Britain’s economic ills or give it a new global leadership role; and a colonial style diplomacy that severely underestimated Britain’s growing dependency on its continental European neighbours. In conclusion, the article argues that it nevertheless required the formation of a parochial political elite of little Englanders to achieve the extreme outcome of Brexit.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Policy
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 21 Jan 2022

Keywords

  • Britain and Europe
  • British foreign policy
  • European Communities
  • European Union
  • Brexit

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