Demokratie. Versprechen – Visionen – Vermessungen

Vortrag von Robert Saunders: "Democracy in Crisis: Brexit and the British Constitution, 2016–19"

Brexit both exposed and accelerated a crisis in British democracy. The referendum in 2016 was only the third nationwide referendum in UK history, marking a new form of democratic decision-making. For 17.4 million Leave voters – the largest coalition ever assembled in a democratic vote in Britain – Brexit was a moment of democratic renewal: a chance to ‘take back control’ from an anti-democratic elite. But the task of delivering Brexit strained Britain’s democratic institutions to breaking point, bringing different visions of democracy into collision and triggering an unprecedented assault on its elected Chamber. MPs were cast as ‘traitors’ and ‘saboteurs’, Parliament was accused of ‘thwarting the democratic decision of the British people’, and judges were denounced as ‘enemies of the people’ for defending Parliament against the Executive. In 2019, Prime Minister Boris Johnson tried to suspend Parliament altogether, and the Conservative manifesto later attacked ‘a broken Parliament that simply refuses to deliver Brexit’. Meanwhile, Remainers accused their opponents of a ‘coup d’état’, intended to ‘hi-jack democracy’, and demanded a ‘People’s Vote’ to test the democratic mandate of any Brexit deal.

This lecture explores both the causes and consequences of Britain’s democratic crisis. It asks why there was such a widespread sense of democracy in peril, and sets Brexit within the longer history of democratic thought in Britain. It explores the relationship between parliamentary democracy and direct democracy, and assesses the legacy of the Brexit controversy for democratic thought and practice in the UK.

Lecture by Robert Saunders, Queen Mary University of London. Chair: Martina Steber, Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History.

The event is part of our lecture series "Demokratie. Versprechen − Visionen − Vermessungen"  and the autumn school "Democracy in Modern European History", organized jointly by the DAAD Research Hub for German Studies at the University of Cambridge.

Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History
Leonrodstraße 46 b
80636 München

REGISTRATION for on-site participation
Phone (089) 1 26 88 - 0
Deadline: October 9

STREAMING via ZOOM webinar
The lecture will be streamed live and recorded. You can participate in the discussion afterwards through the audience chat.
Dial-in link for the Zoom webinar:
Webinar-ID: 997 6790 5318
Code: 876459

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