On 23 June, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. The majority for “Brexit” (52% to 48%) surprised observers on both sides, and exposed geographical and generational divides in British society. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain, while Wales and England, voted to leave; voters over 60 voted overwhelmingly to leave, while voters under 35 voted as strongly to remain. The referendum also highlighted deep divisions within Britain’s ruling Conservative Party. Prime Minister David Cameron had hoped that simply holding the referendum would appease Tory Euroskeptics, but was so surprised by the vote for Brexit that he immediately announced his intention to resign. The opposition Labour Party proved equally divided, and only the stoutly Euroskeptic United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) celebrated the vote. Theresa May eventually emerged as the new Prime Minister, only the second woman to hold that position, and now faces the challenge of managing a delicate diplomatic dance which will include not only her party colleagues, but restive regions and a fragmented British electorate—not to mention Britain’s twenty-seven soon-to-be-former EU partners.
Why did the UK hold the referendum? Why did the result come as such a surprise? How will the British political class and electorate respond to the realities of Brexit? What will the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union look like?
For answers to these and other questions, join us for Geopolitics with Granieri, where Ron Granieri will welcome Prof. Dominic Tierney of Swarthmore College for a wide-raging discussion of the causes and consequences of Brexit. Tierney is a Senior Fellow with FPRI’s Program on National Security and associate professor of political science at Swarthmore College.