Disunited Kingdom – Henry Farrell's Feature on Brexit in the Latest Democracy

Andrew Young — January 17, 2017

For the Winter issue of Democracy, Henry Farrell explores the weakening of political parties in the United Kingdom and Europe – culminating in Brexit. The article, “Disunited Kingdom,” tracks the shifts of political parties over time, with an eye toward explaining how Brexit became a reality, and how “the Labour Party [became] so weak that the Conservatives do not need to worry about Labour defeating them in the next election, or perhaps in the election after that. This means that UK political debate over the next decade will be an internal fight between more or less authoritarian versions of the right.”

The current political situation in the U.K., the quickly approaching reality of Brexit and the the lack of trust in political parties leads Farrell to believe that a new debate about Britain’s place in the EU and the establishment of a new political could occur before long:

“…the question of the UK rejoining is likely to come up again, as the costs of continued exclusion become clearer. Britain’s strategic situation in the world economy has not changed—it is far more dependent on Europe than it would like to admit. More than 4 million UK citizens signed a petition to run the referendum again—those who voted for Brexit tended to be old, while those who voted in favor of remaining in the EU tended to be young.

This might create political opportunities for an opposition party that wanted to oppose May’s vision of Britain by advocating a more populist vision of the EU—one in which people had free movement, but technocracy was curtailed and ordinary people had a better chance to shape policy. Such a vision might help mobilize the very large numbers of British people who wanted to remain within the EU around an active and positive agenda. It might also answer Mair’s dilemma—by proposing reforms that would once again build bridges of mutual accountability between citizens and their elected representatives. Finally, it might create alliances with other nascent reformers that are starting to think through the problems of Europe. Perhaps a reformed Labour Party could build on such a vision or something like it, but there is precious little evidence of it right now. Even if it did, there is no guarantee that this vision would lead to election victory.”

Read more here.