This post is an extract from a forthcoming chapter by James Downes (Director of British & European Politics, Parliament Street) and Christopher Hanley (Director of Public Opinion & Polling, Parliament Street) for Parliament Street’s upcoming new book.
It is fundamentally clear that politicians on both the left and right of British politics have failed to recognize the long-term impact of British Euroscepticism amongst the British public. To borrow a theory from the political scientists Matthew Goodwin and Robert Ford, a large segment of people who voted for Brexit constituted the ‘left behind’ in society that comprises the traditional working class section of society. However, a large proportion of people that voted for Brexit were also committed Eurosceptics and sought to take back control. We argue that politicians are in denial if they think that Brexit was a flash in the pan event. We are living in a ‘new form of politics’, not just in Britain or in Europe, but in America. Trump’s election victory back in November highlighted not only the discontent amongst ordinary American voters, but the sheer anti-Washington discontent that has engulfed both Democratic and Republican parties alike. The relationship between elected representatives and voters has evolved and politicians are now under increasing scrutiny to stand up and deliver on their election promises.
In the run up to the EU Referendum on the 23rd June, political commentators outlined the potential political and economic uncertainties that may arise as a consequence of leaving the EU. Global economic volatility is likely with the decline in value of the British pound and further economic uncertainties. Whilst debates over what Brexit will look like and when Article 50 will be triggered are likely to dominate the next two years of British politics, the EU is currently facing a triple ‘existential’ crisis. Brexit constitutes the first ‘existential’ crisis, with the ongoing migration crisis and disputes amongst EU member states in resolving the situation. Thirdly and most significantly, the third crisis is political and constitutes a sharp decline in trust across European democracies towards the EU.
Will 2017 continue to be ‘a new form of politics’ and create further political earthquakes on the horizon? With this year’s German, French, and Dutch parliamentary elections looming ever closer on the horizon and the resurgence of far right populism, we are currently living in a ‘new form of politics.’ It is likely that 2017 will continue to have many political surprises and events in store for us. Most significantly, how supranational institutions such as the EU manage and respond to these events is likely to determine its future.
For more on the political earthquake about to hit Europe please read our CEO,
Patrick Sullivan’s new article for Comment Central.