Report: Brexit, the City, and the Crisis of Conservatism


Thanks to the role of money and entrenched class power in electoral processes, the history of liberal democracy is not exactly littered with instances of the people springing nasty surprises on the powers in the land. That, however, was precisely what the British electorate did on June 23, 2016 when it voted to leave the European Union in the face of impressive ruling class and political establishment opposition.

In this report, the authors argue that, underneath the surface of liberal dismay and right wing triumphalism which characterizes much commentary on Brexit, two sets of developments are critical to understanding the British vote on leaving the European Union last June and how developments have unfolded and will unfold since then.

There is, firstly, the electoral crisis of the Conservative Party which prompted David Cameron to promise a referendum on EU membership in the 2015 general election. It has led to the party’s lurch toward unabashed xenophobia under Theresa May’s leadership.

There is, secondly, the British financial sector, whose needs have long dictated the nature of Britain’s relationship to the EU and whose role as the link between the very different worlds of Anglo-American and EU financial sectors has taken considerable beating since 2008.

About the authors:

Radhika Desai is Professor at the Department of Political Studies and Director, Geopolitical Economy Research Group, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada

Alan Freeman is Co-Director of the Geopolitical Economy Research Group, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada


Related articles

Theresa May’s One-Nation Conservatism
For Theresa May, the British people’s vote to leave the European Union not only unlocked the door to the post of Prime Minister. In her interpretation the vote signalled a deeper malaise with

David Lane

Expert Opinions
Brexit-1 and Brexit-2
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled out the appeal of Theresa May's government. The so-called "Bremains", supporters of Britain's membership in the EU, are going to give

Yelena Ananyeva

Expert Opinions
Brexit and Theresa May’s Mansion House Speech
May delivered a hard message in soft tones, but with an underlying message of menace. Britain post-exit wants to remain on good terms with the EU; but if not, then it will be willing to launch a

Richard Sakwa

Expert Opinions