The establishment of third-party political groups in the UK helped the pass Brexit referendum by a 1.9% lead in 2016, almost three years later, the future of Britain’s democracy is at stake due to the lack of an agreement regarding British independence from the EU.
One critical sign of democratic erosion is the rise of nationalism and populists leaders driving and supporting radical political ideologies and practices as a form of constitutional restraint. The current chaotic state of the Brexit agreement is deeply rooted in the rise of populism, in Britain and across Europe. Many European countries, including France and Germany, are also currently dealing with a period of increased nationalism and populist demagogues. The clash of these European populist leaders and ideas prompted the surprising outcome of the original 51.9%pro-Brexit vote in June of 2016. The most prominent issues addressed in the hotly contested proposal include the agreement on citizens’ rights, the financial settlement, and the details of the transition (Hunt and Wheeler). The large divisions and polarization between the four countries that make up the UK and their major political groups are the reason for Britain’s prolonged turbulent departure from the EU. The growing number of major political leaders with populist agendas pose a threat to the health of the institution of democracy at large. The prevention of populism is possible through the implementation of imperious actions to promote a nonpartisan social, economic, and political system. The passing of the Brexit referendum acted as a catalyst for polarization, heightened political controversy, and democratic decay across the UK and Europe, however, Britain’s most recent choice to delay the deal again could cause permanent damage to its democracy.
Nigel Farage, a British nationalist politician, leader of the new pro-Brexit party, and former leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP)earned the nickname “Mr. Brexit,” through his relentless advocation for British independence. He received immense support from members of UKIP, who agreed with his somewhat radical belief that the European project failed due to factors including “insufficient immigration policy and the acceptance of radical Islamism” (Armstrong). He ran with the slogan“I want my country back,” vaguely resembling Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again.” Through his 2015 campaign, Farage facilitated populist ideals through advocating for Britain’s need for economic nationalism, and resentment and opposition towards the leftist coalition and greater European inclusion (Armstrong). The principle of upholding a sense of separatism and instilling a mutual prejudice among the majority or middle group of the population promotes exclusion and primes and socializes its cohorts to ignore the needs of the minority groups (Müller, 55). Farage’s establishment of a “group-think” mentality for his party, created a sense of counterfeit compassion and unanimity in Britain, further propelling the populist leader towards political gain.
Over the past two years, Brexit has encountered criticism and large scale issues, both internally among members of the UK and externally between its European counterparts. Withdrawalagreements reached by the EU and UK were rejected three times by members of the British Parliament and backstop plans, none of which have made significant progress in determining the future of Britain (Hunt and Wheeler). The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party since 2016, Teresa May, asked to push back the exit date from April 12, 2019 to June 30, 2019, over three years after its initial approval, in the hope that by then Britain can come to an agreement regarding this 585 paged continental quandary (Hunt and Wheeler).
Many labor party supporters are in favor of another referendum, whereas many conservatives are backers of Brexit, and oppose any changes including the Irish backstop plan(Hunt and Wheeler). The primary argument in support of Brexit is directly aligned with the populistic promise to bring about necessary change to the current seemingly corrupt political and economic order. Those in favor of Brexit argue that the most recent backstop plan would increase Brussels’ powers over Britain on issues including tax, state aid, and labor and environmental regulation, and does not speculate a specific departure date (Blitz, Mance, and Barker). The Labor Party fears that passing Brexit could cause catastrophic problems for the UK (Hunt and Wheeler). Some Labor party members believe imposing import restrictions on, the monetary system could stem into a national a currency crisis and the loss of shared power in Britain and the current EU as a whole (Hunt and Wheeler).
The rise of prominent third-party groups such as Farage’s pro-Brexit party is indicative of Brexit’s connection to populism. The approval of yet another Brexit extension only encourages democratic decay and polarization, especially as more third-party political groups begin to develop. The ascending progression of British nationalism and the ultimate Brexit outcome will play significant roles in shaping the future of democracy globally.
Armstrong, Paul. “Nigel Farage: Who Is Brexit ‘Architect’?” CNN, Cable News Network, 15 July 2016, edition.cnn.com/2016/06/24/europe/eu-referendum-nigel-farage/index.html.
Blitz, James. “Brexit Timeline: Key Dates in the UK’s Divorce from the EU.” Financial Times, Financial Times, 5 Apr. 2019, www.ft.com/content/64e7f218-4ad4-11e7-919a-1e14ce4af89b.
“EU Referendum Results.” BBC News, BBC, www.bbc.com/news/politics/eu_referendum/results.
Kirka, Danica. “Explaining the Border ‘Backstop’ That Halted Brexit Deal.” AP NEWS, Associated Press, 15 Jan. 2019, www.apnews.com/eb12b6eb1da3436cba22bd64de6d9ec8.
Lawler, Christopher Hope; David. “’Mr Brexit’ Nigel Farage to Cash in on Lucrative Coast-to-Coast New Year Speaking Tour in 20 American Cities.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 30 Nov. 2016, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/24/mr-brexit-nigel-farage-cash-lucrative-coast-to-coast-new-year/.
Müller, Jan-Werner. What Is Populism?Penguin Books, 2017.
Wheeler, Alex Hunt & Brian. “Brexit: All You Need to Know about the UK Leaving the EU.” BBC News, BBC, 31 Jan. 2019, www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-32810887.
“Photo by Ed Everett, “People’s Vote March 2018”, Creative Commons Zero license.”