Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Towards Exit from the EU: The Conservative Party’s Increasing Euroscepticism since the 1980s

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Abstract:  Since the 1980s, Britain’s Conservative Party has become increasingly critical of the European Union, and of the country’s membership of it. So contentious and controversial has this issue become that it was a significant factor in the downfall of three consecutive Conservative Prime Ministers, all of whom found it increasingly difficult to manage their Party in Parliament, and thereby maintain any semblance of Party unity. Initially, during the 1980s and 1990s, the intra-Party divisions were between Europhiles (pro-Europeans) and Eurosceptics, but this demarcation was subsequently superseded by a division between soft Eurosceptics and hard Eurosceptics. The development and deepening of these intra-Party divisions are attributable to a plethora of endogenous and exogenous factors, the combined and cumulative effect of which ultimately led to the ‘Brexit’ vote in the June 2016 referendum.

Keywords:  Brexit; Conservative Party; David Cameron; Euroscepticism; Thatcher; Thatcherism



© Peter Dorey. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.