Will Davies at the Political Economy Research Center:
Given that Brexit was an event imagined and delivered from within the Conservative Party, one of the most important analyses of it is Matthew d’Ancona’s examination of how the idea shifted from the party’s margins to its mainstream over the post-Thatcher era. Two things in particular stand out in his account.
Firstly, the political plausibility of Brexit rose as a direct response to Tony Blair’s dogmatic assumption that European integration was a historical destiny, which encompassed the UK. No doubt a figure such as Blair would have discovered a messianic agenda under any historical circumstances. But given he gained power specifically in the mid-90s, he was one palpable victim of the fin de siècle ideology (stereotyped by Francis Fukuyama’s ‘end of history’ thesis, but also present in Anthony Giddens’ ‘Third Way’) that the world was programmed to converge around a single political system.
Neo-conservative faith in violent ‘democratisation’ was Blair’s worst indulgence on this front, but a view of European unification (and expansion) as inevitable was responsible for inciting the Tory reaction within Westminster. Europe could have been viewed as a particular historical path, adopted in view of the particular awfulness of the European 20th century. Instead, in a Hegelian fashion, the idea of Europe became entangled with the idea of ‘globalisation’, and the conservative reaction was to refuse both.
Secondly, Tory Brexiteers view the EU as an anti-market project, which blocks economic freedom. This is also weirdly ahistorical.