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Brexit and its Implications for Democratic Governance in the United Kingdom

Mcharg, Aileen



This chapter explores the implications of withdrawal from the European Union (Brexit) on 31 January 2020 for democratic governance in the United Kingdom. Following an unexpected vote to leave the European Union in the June 2016 referendum, the lengthy Brexit process was marked by a series of fundamental disputes about the nature and location of democratic authority within the United Kingdom. The chapter explores four sets of democratic conflicts: 1. a conceptual conflict, about the respective roles of, and relationship between, direct and representative democracy; 2. an interpretive conflict, about whether representative authority lay primarily with the UK Parliament or the UK Government; 3. a foundational conflict, cutting across claims to both direct and representative democratic authority, about whether the UK contains a unitary demos or plural, territorially located, demoi; and 4. a procedural conflict, concerning by whom democracy in the UK is defined and guaranteed. I argue that although these conflicts can be partially explained by the exceptional features of the Brexit process, that process revealed and fed into deeper-rooted tensions and uncertainties about the proper understanding of democratic authority within the UK constitution; tensions which continue to resonate post-Brexit.


Mcharg, A. (in press). Brexit and its Implications for Democratic Governance in the United Kingdom. In Research Handbook on Law and Democracy. Edward Elgar Publishing

Acceptance Date Feb 28, 2024
Deposit Date Mar 18, 2024
Publisher Edward Elgar Publishing
Book Title Research Handbook on Law and Democracy
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