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Brexit – Causes, Consequences and Meanings

7. Was Britain destined to leave the EU?

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In this module, we consider whether Britain’s relationship with the EU meant that was destined to leave at some point, focusing in particular on the idea of Britain as an ‘awkward partner’ in Europe (in Stephen George’s famous words) and the idea of Britain as a ‘quiet European’. As we move through the module, we think about: (i) the impact of the Second World War in how Britain’s relationship with Europe, the United States, and the British Empire/Commonwealth; (ii) the fact that Britain joined the EC in 1973, fifteen years after it was founded; (iii) the fundamental differences between Britain and Europe’s legal systems and political cultures; (iv) Britain’s willingness to push back against various rules and regulations, e.g. the introduction of the single currency, the creation of Schengen, etc.; (v) the concept of the ‘special relationship’ between Britain and the United States; (vi) the extent to which Britain has, despite its apparent intransigence, shaped the European project; (vii) Britain’s high level of compliance in enforcing EU laws and directives; and (viii) the extent to which Britain, if it really were a ‘quiet European’, could perhaps have been less ‘quiet’ about that fact.


In this course, Dr Tim Oliver (Loughborough University) explores Brexit in three broad areas – causes, consequences and meanings. In the first two modules, we provide a general introduction to the course as a whole as well as an outline of the proposed structure.

Between the third and eighth modules, we think about the causes of Brexit. This section of the course includes a brief introduction (in the third module) followed by five modules on five key questions: (i) why did David Cameron call an in-out referendum on Europe?; (ii) why did people want the UK leave the EU?; (iii) why did people want the UK to remain a member of the EU?; (iv) was the UK destined to leave the EU?; and (v) what effect has Britain had on the EU (and vice versa)?

Between the ninth and fourteenth modules, we think about the consequences of Brexit. Again, there is a brief introduction (in the ninth module) followed by five key questions: (i) what impact has Brexit had on UK-EU relations?; (ii) what impact has Brexit had on British politics?; (iii) has Brexit solved Britain’s European question?; (iv) what does Brexit mean for the EU and the rest of the world?; and (v) who are Brexit’s ‘winners’ and ‘losers’?

Between the fifteenth and twentieth modules, we think about the meanings of Brexit. The questions this time are: (i) what does Brexit mean?; (ii) what theoretical approaches best explain Brexit?; (iii) how can we measure the success and failure of Brexit?; (iv) is Brexit a ‘critical juncture’ in British political history?; and (v) Is Brexit unique to the UK?

Finally, in the twenty-first and concluding module, we offer seven key rules when discussing Brexit.


Dr Tim Oliver is Senior Lecturer for the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance at Loughborough University London. His research and teaching currently focus on Brexit, British politics, London, European politics, international relations and international security. He has combined work in academia (LSE, UCL, NYU and the EUI) with work in political institutions (the House of Lords and the European Parliament), think tanks (in Berlin, Washington D.C. and London) and with the British military.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Oliver, T. (2020, March 10). Brexit – Causes, Consequences and Meanings - Was Britain destined to leave the EU? [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Oliver, T. "Brexit – Causes, Consequences and Meanings – Was Britain destined to leave the EU?." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 10 Mar 2020,