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