Brexit and democracy

Journal: 
Issue: 
Summer 2019
Author(s): 
DOI: 10.3898/SOUN.72.01.2019

The slogan ‘take back control’ can be seen as an expression of protest at the hollowing out of democracy. The Brexit referendum has caused many problems, but it has also opened up the possibility for a sense of re-empowerment - the renewed possibility for discussion of ‘substantive politics’. The article distinguishes between procedural democracy and substantive democracy - the ability to actually affect decisions. The former is in a relatively healthy state across Europe, the latter is not. The only political position on Brexit that has the potential to assist in the restoring of substantive democracy is the remain and reform position. The 2016 referendum has hugely strengthened the forces of reaction - racism, exclusive nationalism and market fundamentalism - but it has also galvanised a new generation of pro-European green, socialist and democratic activists. This opens up the possibility of restoring a degree of meaningful political participation for individual citizens across the continent, and reversing the sense of disempowerment that led to Brexit. 

Soundings 72 Agency and change