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The road to BrexitA cultural perspective on British attitudes to Europe$
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Ina Habermann

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781526145086

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7765/9781526145093

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PRINTED FROM MANCHESTER SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.manchester.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Manchester University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MSO for personal use.date: 25 July 2021

Not with a bang but a whimper: Brexit in historical perspective

Not with a bang but a whimper: Brexit in historical perspective

(p.17) 1 Not with a bang but a whimper: Brexit in historical perspective
The road to Brexit

Robert Holland

Manchester University Press

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.

Keywords:   Brexit antecedents, Brexit beyond resolution, Commonwealth myths, Fratricidal Toryism, Irish phobias, Modernisation, Nativism, Peripheral strategies, Purist sovereignty, Recrystallisation of 1960s uncertainty

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