Paul Beaumont – Brexit and EU Legitimation: Unwitting Martyr for the Cause?


Abstract: Drawing upon emerging trends across Europe, this essay argues that the painful learning Britain undergoes via Brexit, looks set to become a useful lesson for the rest of the EU. Not unlike how Europe’s bloody past once served as shorthand for justifying the EU’s existence, should Brexit continue to humiliate Britain and result in recession, it will provide a new and powerful symbolic resource capable of legitimating membership and making up for the EU’s democratic deficit. As such, Britain looks set to become an unwitting martyr for the EU cause. Contrary to the prevailing wisdom then, a no-deal Brexit may be the optimum outcome for the EU because it would best illuminate the folly of leaving and therefore publicly crystallise the benefits of membership.

Keywords: Brexit, European Union, democratic deficit, narratives, Europe