The Brexit vote on the 23rd June caused a political earthquake in British politics with Leave winning by 52% to 48%. Whilst negotiations between the European Union (EU) and the British Government are still ongoing as to when Brexit will be triggered and what it will look like, less is known about how perceptions towards membership of the EU have varied amongst the British public since the United Kingdom joined the EU in 1973.
Drawing on original polling data from the Eurobarometer, Parliament Street’s James Downes and Chris Hanley examines the attitudes of the British public towards membership of the EU from 1973-2016. The data is then broken down across decades in order to examine variations in support for the EU amongst the British public. The central argument of this article is that Britain has always been a ‘reluctant’ member of the EU, which we term ‘British Exceptionalism’. The article then outlines how the EU is currently embattled with three ‘existential’ crises and implications for the future of the EU.