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26 April 2019

How the UK constitution paved the way for Brexit vote and has been changed by it

A new book by Dr Andrew Blick, of King’s School of Politics and Economics, looks at the 2016 EU membership referendum as a pivotal moment in our constitutional history

Dr Andrew Blick
Dr Andrew Blick, Director of the Centre for British Politics and Government and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Politics and Economics at King’s.

The UK constitution not only made the 2016 EU referendum possible, but it has also been changed by the effects of the historic vote, according to Dr Andrew Blick.

His new book Stretching the Constitution: the Brexit shock in historic perspective outlines how the referendum on 23 June 2016 and the result stemmed partly from our lack of a fully ‘written’ constitution. Other contributing factors were our party system, the first-past-the-post voting approach used for parliamentary elections and the prominence of Parliament and the House of Commons within the constitution.

Dr Blick, who is Director of the Centre for British Politics and Government and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Politics and Economics at King’s, also argues that events since the vote have established certain important precedents that have changed our constitution.

Among these is the relationship between Parliament and Government, the way the Cabinet and political parties do or don’t function, referendums as a device of direct democracy and the relationship between those in Westminster and their devolved equivalents in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Dr Blick says: “Brexit is clearly the most prominent political issue of our time.

“We cannot explain away the fact that over 17 million people willingly voted for it on 23 June 2016. Europe has been a divisive issue as long as the UK has existed as a country and long before then." 

Dr Blick hopes that his book, launched on 24 April at an event in Bush House at King’s, will convey the important historic dimension to Brexit to people interested in contemporary politics, including those in Westminster and elsewhere in Europe who are keen to understand what is happening in the UK.

“Through the techniques of the historian we can achieve a better grasp on where we our now and where we might be going,” explains Dr Blick.

Issues around Brexit are explored with King’s political economy students on the MA in Politics and Contemporary History course through the modules 'From Blair to Brexit: Britain since 1997' and 'The Evolution of British Government since 1945', 'Democracy in the United Kingdom.'

The School is also home to King’s Department of European and International Studies and the think-tank UK in a Changing Europe.




Whether or not one likes the result of the referendum, and whatever the precise outcome will prove to be, the UK constitution will have helped bring it about and has certainly been changed by Brexit

Dr Andrew Blick