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International Politics

, Volume 53, Issue 6, pp 689–707 | Cite as

The world after Brexit: From British referendum to global adventure

  • Tim OliverEmail author
Original Article

Abstract

The decision by a majority of the British people to leave the European Union was in turn shocking insofar as few experts saw the ‘Leave’ camp winning, unprecedented insofar as no other country has ever tried to leave the European Union before, and deeply upsetting to the rest of the international community who with one notable exception had been banking on the UK staying inside the European Union. Interpreted by various pundits after the event as being either a revolt against globalisation, a rejection of an austerity regime that had left many on that proverbial trash heap of history, or quite simply a nativist rejection of all things foreign, there is little doubt that the consequences of what happened on June 23rd will be both long-lasting and potentially disturbing for the UK in particular and the rest of the world in general. But as this article seeks to show the decision itself, and the determination by the new British government to makes sure that “Brexit means Brexit”, leaves nearly every question unanswered. It is of course perfectly reasonable to think of what has happened – and might happen in the future – as ‘events’. But it is by now becoming perfectly clear that the actual withdrawal of Britain from the EU itself will be less an event and more a process in which all manner of outcomes are possible. Indeed, as this article shows, the process will unfold through multiple overlapping negotiations, which will take place at various levels of policy making and involve numerous political actors. The outcome may possibly be the benign one forecast by the Leave campaign. On the other hand, there are plenty of opportunities for a breakdown in relations in UK politics, between the UK and the EU, and in European geopolitics with international implications. But whether this happens or not depends now on a series of complex negotiations. The purpose here is to discuss these in some detail identifying the main actors, the key issues and possible outcomes.

Keywords

Brexit European Union United Kingdom Scotland Article 50 European integration European geopolitics 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This article is based on an LSE IDEAS Strategic Update. The author is grateful to the editors for permission to reproduce that material here.

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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LSE IDEASLondon School of EconomicsLondonUK

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