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Why Brexit?

Evening Program

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Tuesday, September 22, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2089
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
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Why did the British vote to leave the European Union in 2016, and why did it prove so difficult to “get Brexit done”? The answers to these questions reveal tensions at the heart of a nation that may reshape the United Kingdom more profoundly than any political event in the past 300 years.

As she examines Brexit’s past, present, and future, historian Jennifer Paxton traces Britain’s long-ambivalent relationship to Europe, reflected in a reluctance to join what was originally the European Economic Community. As the EEC evolved toward an “ever-closer union,” the rise of Euroscepticism among Conservatives led to an internal party struggle that spilled over onto the national political stage. 

Paxton looks at the consequences of the debate over Europe across the political spectrum, such as the fracturing of the Labour Party and the rise of new political actors, such as the UK Independence Party and the Brexit Party, and at the impact of the bitter struggle in Parliament over the Brexit deal on the future of the unwritten British constitution.

She also examines the unintended consequences of Brexit for the constituent nations of the United Kingdom, as the Brexit debate became entangled in longstanding questions about the status of Scotland and the future of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland. 

Paxton is a clinical assistant professor of history and director of the University Honors Program at the Catholic University of America.

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