Brexit, made up of the words ‘Britain’ and ‘exit’ is the familiar name
given to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. Recently
since the campaigning and the result of the Brexit vote in 23rd June 2016, and
also notably with the election of Donald Trump as the President of the United
States in November 2016, populism has become a popular political movement both
discussed and practiced. This led to numerous populist parties, especially in
Europe to gain more attention from the media. Parties traditionally classified
as populist, such as the National Front in France, Alternative for Germany,
Podemos in Spain are becoming more known on a worldwide scale. However, as it
is such a new concept, there is no exact definition of the term “populism”. For
example, Albertazzi and McDonnell in their book “Twenty-First Century Populism
– The Spectre of Western European Democracy” (2008) defines populism as:

 

an
ideology which pits a virtuous ad homogenous people against a set of elites and
dangerous ‘others’ who are depicted as attempting to deprive the sovereign
people of their rights, values, prosperity, identity, and voice. (3)

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According
to this definition, we are able to classify Donald Trump’s campaign as populist
(note that the Republican Party he belonged to itself is not populist), as he
displayed an anti-elitist sentiment, played on the fear of immigrant (the
‘others’), and campaigned to ‘make America great again’, encouraging voters to
feel nostalgic for the idealised past – an age before globalisation. Therefore,
we could conclude that Trump’s victory is due to populist campaigning. A
similar explanation is often given as the reason for Brexit, as the ‘leave’
campaign was widely considered a populist movement. However, unlike the US
presidential election, the UK-EU relation dates itself back to a complex
history of negotiation and loopholes since the end of WWII, affecting British
opinion on the EU itself, and Britain as a member of the EU. Hence, this essay
shall examine how far the populist campaigning for ‘leave’ actually affected
the British.

 

Background
of UK-EU Relationship

The European Union was first introduced by French former foreign
minister Robert Schuman and drafted by French businessman Jean Monnet as the
ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community) in 1951 as part of the Schuman Plan
proposed on 9th of May, 1950. One of its main aims was to rehabilitate war-torn
France and Germany especially, but was open to any other European countries if
necessary, resulting in the membership of Luxembourg, Netherlands, Italy, and
Belgium. The system of the ECSC which allows both France and Germany to regain
trust between the two, and simultaneously stabilize their economy and state was
a step towards the “United States of Europe”, an idea of former British Prime
Minister Winston Churchill mentioned in a speech in 1946. However in the same
speech, he claimed that the UK “would be with Europe, but not be of it”,
implying that Britain becomes not a member of the European community, but
rather stay out and be its ally. However, this plan proved not to be beneficial
to the British economy, as Britain left the EFTA in 1973 which they founded in
1960, and joined the European Economic Community. The EEC was negotiated in
1956 and established in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome. It aimed to not only create
institutions such as the Assembly and the Court of justice, but a common market
and a customs union. However Britain’s application was not as smooth as any
other country as former French President Charles de Gaulle blocked its membership.
This was because he was critical of the British attitude towards trade, as they
wanted free trade within European markets, but have advantageous trade with
their colonies and commonwealth. Although Britain is granted membership after
the resignation of De Gaulle, tensions between the UK and continental Europe
remained.

 

Brexit
History

Euroscepticism
has been popular in the UK, specifically in England since its will to remain in
Power deriving from its especially large empire prevented its membership of the
ECSC and its early entry in the EEC. Britain “disliked many of the
supranational and technocratic elements in the treaties”, which includes the
Treaty of Paris (1951) and the Treaty of Rome (1957), as they were concerned
about their relations with the Commonwealth. (Why
did the United Kingdom not join the European Union when it started, 2016)

There were
opposition against the Maastricht Treaty because the Treaty agreed upon 3
pillars which consist of the Economic and Monetary Union, Common Foreign and Security
Policy, and Justice. This allowed a significant expansion of decision making
power to the EU. Britain, as it is known for its aspiration to remain World
Power, prioritised its sovereignty over the Treaty. Even before former Prime
Minister David Cameron promised for a referendum in 2013 to gain votes for the
election, Eurosceptic parties such as the UK Independence party (established in
1993), and the Referendum party (established in 1997) have been gaining
popularity.

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