EU4A1      Half Unit
The Politics and Policies of 'Brexit': The UK's changing relationship with the European Union

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Kevin Featherstone CBG 5.04 and Prof Antony Travers


This course is available on the MSc in Culture and Conflict in a Global Europe, MSc in Culture and Conflict in a Global Europe (LSE & Sciences Po), MSc in European and International Public Policy, MSc in European and International Public Policy (LSE and Bocconi), MSc in European and International Public Policy (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Political Economy of Europe and MSc in Political Economy of Europe (LSE and Sciences Po). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course will provide students with a critical understanding of the key issues underlying the agenda of the UK's intended exit from the European Union ('BREXIT').  In doing so, it will place the case in its appropriate historical context (the UK's previous relations with the EU) and it is intended that the course will continue beyond the point at which the UK ceases to be an EU member.  At this stage, the EU will continue to have an important, although different, role in the UK's political economy.  The course will adopt a broad disciplinary perspective - covering the political, political sociology, political economy, constitutional, and foreign policy/external relations dimensions.  As such, it will place the key issues within the relevant theoretical and conceptual debates.  While 'BREXIT' is a dynamic and uncertain agenda, it prompts a series of challenges to existing knowledge that demand critical analysis of the emerging empirical evidence and modelling.

The following is an indicative outline of each week's topics. Note that the seminar questions differ for the UG and MSc students.

1. Placing 'BREXIT' in historical context: the UK's post-1945 relations with the rest of Europe.

  • SEMINAR QUESTION: Is it accurate to term the UK an 'awkward partner' within the EU?
  • Does 'BREXIT' show De Gaulle's interpretation of Britain's orientation was right?

'BREXIT' and the UK Political System.

2. Culture Wars? Identity politics and 'BREXIT'.

  • What was 'BREXIT' a symptom of?  How far are these conditions found elsewhere?

3. Generation BREXIT:

  • Are differing attitudes towards 'BREXIT' amongst the young, evidence of an electoral turning point?  What are the implications?

4. Different visions: Party politics and 'BREXIT'.

  • Why has Europe proved a problem for the Conservatives?
  • What might a 'LEXIT' mean?

5. The UK constitutional order and 'BREXIT': the legal processes of withdrawal.

  • What are the implications of 'BREXIT' for the UK Parliament and the devolved governments?

7. Managing 'BREXIT': the impact on Whitehall

  • What challenges are posed from 're-patriating' policies such as immigration; agriculture; industrial strategy?

After 'BREXIT': analysing change

8. Managing secession: the EU and its external ties in Europe

  • Why is 'BREXIT' so difficult?
  • What are the implications for the EU?

9. The macro-economic implications of  'BREXIT'.

  • What is the likely impact on the City?
  • What are the implications for the EU?

10. The micro-economic implications of  'BREXIT'.

  • What are the implications for the UK's industrial strategy / and labour market?
  • Does BREXIT imply a de-regulatory model?

11.  'BREXIT' and foreign and security policies.

  • How significant are the opportunities and threats for the UK?
  • What are the implications for CFSP and defence cooperation?


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT. 1 hour of lectures in the ST.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay and 1 other piece of coursework in the MT.

An early formative essay will address a challenging interpretive question of a historical nature or of current political behaviour. Thereafter, group work/presentations will be part of the learning process for the the origination of an individual, extended policy paper (summative).  The group work will have explored the issues and implications of a particular policy area; tutor support will be provided for the subsequent individual papers (design; coverage; sources; analytical frame). 

Indicative reading

  • D. Dinan et al, eds. (2017) The European Union in Crisis; London: Palgrave.
  • A. Geddes (2013) Britain and the European Union; London: Palgrave.
  • B. Simms (2016) Britain's Europe: A Thousand Years of Conflict and Cooperation. London: Allen Lane.
  • S. Wall (2008) A Stranger in Europe: Britain and the EU from Thatcher to Blair.  Oxford: OUP.
  • H. Young (1998)  This Blessed Polot: Britain and Europe from Churchill to Blair.  London: Macmillan.
  • K. Armstrong (2017) BREXIT Time: Leaving the EU -why, how and when? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • H. Clarke, M. Goodwin and P. Whiteley (2017) BREXIT: Why Britain voted to leave the European Union.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • E. O. Eriksen and J. E. Fossum (2015) The European Union's Non-Members: independence under hegemony? London: Routledge.
  • S. Hobolt (2016) 'The BREXIT vote: a divided nation, a divided continent',  Journal of European Public Policy, 23, 9.   And 'Debate Section': 'British exit from the EU - legal and political implications', in the same issue.
  • L. Halligan and G. Lyons (2017), Clean BREXIT: Why leaving the EU still makes sense; London: Biteback Publishing.
  • The LSE project: 'Generation BREXIT'.


Project (100%, 5000 words) in the LT.

The summative assessment is guided by a prior  formative essay and group presentations, allowing scope for breadth, as well as the original investigation of a specific, challenging policy issue.  Assessments foster communication skills; group collaboration; investigative information-gathering and evaluation; the ability to originate, design and implement a full policy paper.  The scheduling of work with an early formative essay facilitates timely feedback; the drafting of a policy paper and the discussion with the Tutor provides support before its implementation; the later submission of the policy paper allows the student to create and deliver a paper with some original investigation and evidence.

Key facts

Department: European Institute

Total students 2018/19: 34

Average class size 2018/19: 17

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication