The Strategic Context of the British Referenda on Continued Membership in the EC/EU: An Analysis of the Political Elite’s Motivation

  • Monika Brusenbauch Meislová
Keywords: referenda on continued membership in the EC/EU, United Kingdom, political elite, motivation, logic of appropriateness, logic of consequentiality


The main research objective of this article is to explain the motives behind the British political elite’s decision to hold nationwide referenda on continued membership in the EC/EU in 1975 and 2016. In order to do so, the author applies her own analytical framework using a theoretical model of dichotomous logics of appropriateness and consequentiality. The article demonstrates the primacy of domestic parameters during the convening of these referenda. In both cases, decisions came at a moment when the party system was no longer able to accommodate EC/EU-related tensions within the governing parties. In this context, the research points to a strategisation and an instrumentalisation of the European agenda on behalf of domestic intra-party politics. The author concludes that while the official rhetoric accompanying the political elite’s decisions to hold both referenda on continued membership in the EC/EU operated with the normative logic of appropriateness, the real basis of these decisions lay in the utilitarian logic of consequentiality.

Author Biography

Monika Brusenbauch Meislová
born in 1984, she earned her Ph.D. in Political Science from Palacký University in Olomouc. She also studied at universities in the United Kingdom and Germany and carried out a traineeship at the European Parliament in Brussels. Her long-term research interests include British politics and British-EU relations as well as EU external relations, relations between the EU and its member states and Czech foreign policy. Currently, she is working at the Department of Politics and European Studies of the Faculty of Arts at Palacký University.
Research Articles