Prof. Dr. Melanie Sully

Brexit. Britain Europe and the Referendum, Großbritannien, Europa und das Referendum Article by Dr Melanie Sully in Europäische Rundschau

Extracts from “Britain, Europe and the Referendum” in Europäische Rundschau 2012/4 (in German)


Prof Dr Melanie Sully This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


“The relations between Britain and “continental” Europe have been awkward to say the least. Often assuming the whole integration project was doomed to failure, Britain signed up at every juncture when it was almost too late. Its recalcitrant attitude has been the cause for much frustration by its partners.

For most European countries after the Second World War it was clear that there had to be fundamental changes in the structure and decision-making process of the continent and nation states. This was not clear for London. On the contrary Great Britain still suffered under the illusion of greatness and the clue is in the word that comes before Britain”. ------------

.”For many in London so-called Euro-centrism was the negation of internationalism. For those in Europe on the other hand Britain was seen as narrowly nationalistic”


“So Britain dithered on Europe until finally joining the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973 under a Conservative government in a rational act of economic realism without great empathy or euphoria”.


“Britain was a member of the EEC for two years before a referendum was held on whether it should stay in-----

on “do you think the UK should stay in the European Community (Common Market)?”. 

Britain was already in the EC and voters often tend to endorse the status quo when in doubt on referenda issues”.


“The Liberal election manifesto of 2010 promised a referendum if there was a fundamental change in the relationship between the EU and the UK, “Liberal Democrats remain committed to an in/out referendum the next time there is fundamental change””.

In The Coalition: our programme for government of May 2010, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats stated that “Britain should play a leading role in an enlarged European Union, but that no further powers should be transferred to Brussels without a referendum”.

Popular feeling on Europe in Britain is not positive which has been exacerbated by the flagging Euro and incessant discussions on a possible Greek exit or even collapse of the Union currency. Furthermore Britain is a net contributor to the EU budget. Any of the main parties if not all could well include a promise in manifestos for a referendum to mobilise the vote. Referenda are not binding on any UK parliament although governments would be politically advised to take note of the result”.

Dr Melanie Sully, British political scientist, was guest professor at Innsbruck University and for many years professor in the Diplomatic Academy, Vienna. She is editor and author of books and articles on Austrian, European and British politics. Currently Dr Sully is consultant for the OSCE on parliamentary standards and gender and for governance projects ( with the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs.