Not with a bang but a whimper
Brexit in historical perspective
in The road to Brexit
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This chapter charts antecedents for Brexit in British history. Key to the discussion is a recurring nativist reaction to European engagements. A strategic bias towards the periphery resulted. In contrast, the United Kingdom’s occasional attempts to be a core continental power often foundered. Purist notions of insular sovereignty and ‘victory’ in two world wars hampered a precise appreciation of Britain’s independent leverage. These dilemmas intensified amidst integrationist currents in Europe after circa 1950, making previous approaches obsolete. Although a workable balance was constructed after the UK’s adhesion to the European Community in 1973, from the mid-1990s, an intra-Tory civil war tipped antithetical visions of British interests against each other, culminating in the 2016 referendum. The struggle over Brexit is profoundly cultural, raising issues beyond definitive resolution.

The road to Brexit

A cultural perspective on British attitudes to Europe

Editor: Ina Habermann

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