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This chapter starts with a definition of the term ‘referendum’. A referendum is a means of involving the public in political decisions via voting on specific issues such as leaving the European Union. The chapter focuses on the use of referendums at the local level. It sets out the key features of a referendum. Who is allowed to vote in referendums? What sort of questions are put to voters? Under want circumstances should a referendum take place on specific issues? What are the risks associated with holding a referendum? The chapter also looks at regulations surrounding referendums in the UK. The theoretical considerations that the chapter examines are the fact that a referendum subject tends to be controversial, the relationship between referendums and direct democracy and the implications of the results.


Anand Menon and Luigi Scazzieri

This chapter examines the history of the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European integration process. The chapter dissects the long-term trends in public opinion and the more contingent, short-term factors that led to the referendum vote to leave the European Union. The UK was a late joiner and therefore unable to shape the early institutional development of the EEC. British political parties and public opinion were always ambiguous about membership and increasingly Eurosceptic from the early 1990s. Yet the UK had a significant impact on the EU’s development, in the development of the single market programme and eastward enlargement. If Brexit goes through, Britain will nevertheless maintain relations with the EU in all policy areas from agriculture to energy and foreign policy. Europeanization will remain a useful theoretical tool to analyse EU–UK relations even if the UK leaves the Union.


6. Beyond Electoral Representation  

Direct and Deliberative Democracy

David M. Farrell and Luke Field

This chapter examines some of the main alternatives to representative methods of democratic decision-making practised in contemporary Europe. The chapter first focuses on referendums, providing an overview of their use across Europe’s democracies and examining how much scope is given to citizens to control when they are held and what they are about. The chapter then reviews the wider panoply of democratic innovations that, in combination, see democracies move beyond being merely ‘vote-centred’ representative processes. This includes the relatively recent emergence of deliberative forms of democracy, in which citizens are brought into the heart of debates on key policy issues through their involvement in ‘deliberative mini-publics’ such as citizens’ assemblies.


Andrew Blick

UK Politics gives an introduction to this subject, providing the foundational understanding, critical perspectives, and historical knowledge needed to make sense of politics in the UK today. Part I looks at the way people are governed in the UK. This includes an analysis of the Cabinet and the Prime Minster, parliament, and the UK and human rights. Part 2 looks at how people participate in politics through examining the party system, elections, and voting. It also considers the issue of referendums. The third part is about how society affects UK politics. This part of the text examines communication and public opinion and considers identity, equality, and power. The final part is about the UK relates to the rest of the world. The key concepts here are devolution, local government, the nations and the union, and the outside world.


Nicole Curato

This chapter introduces the theory and practice of democratic innovations, such as citizen-initiated referendums, participatory budgeting, and citizens’ assemblies. It characterizes what makes these approaches innovative and distinctly democratic by situating them in the traditions of direct, participatory, and deliberative democracy. The chapter critically examines the purpose and limits of democratic innovations, presents debates on how these approaches are being applied and institutionalized around the world, provides examples and case studies of democratic innovations from around the world, and concludes by putting forward provocative questions on what it means for citizens to meaningfully take part in democratic decision-making in contemporary times.


This edition examines why and how European Union institutions matter. It discusses the origins and development of EU institutions as well as their structures, functions, and powers. It also considers how a particular institution fits into the EU’s long wider institutional system, which theories help us best to understand the institution, and how the institution is likely to be changed by the EU’s long constitutional crisis and continued turmoil over the euro. This chapter provides a brief history and a taxonomy of EU institutions and considers the crises confronting EU institutions, including the referendum vote in the United Kingdom in 2016 to leave the EU. It also describes three competing theoretical approaches to the study of EU institutions: integration theory, the new institutionalism, and the separation of powers tradition. Finally, it looks at debates about the accountability of EU institutions.


Michelle Cini and Nieves Pérez-Solórzano Borragán

This chapter examines the so-called ‘Brexit’ phenomenon, the first time an existing EU member state has voted in a referendum to leave the Union. The chapter examines the historical context that shaped the UK’s decision to join the EEC and its subsequent relationship with the EU. It charts the events leading to the EU referendum, including the campaign and explains the reasons for the narrow ‘Leave’ vote in the referendum. The Brexit negotiations under Article 50 are discussed by focusing on process, actors, and outcomes, specifically the content of the March 2018 Draft Withdrawal Agreement. The penultimate section of the chapter explains Brexit by drawing on the extant European integration literature with a focus on the concepts of disintegration, differentiated integration, Europeanization, and politicization, while surveying the likely scenarios for a future EU–UK relationship. The chapter ends discussing the impact and implications of Brexit for the EU.


Michael Gallagher

This chapter focuses on the two main opportunities that people have to vote in most societies: elections and referendums. Elections are held to fill seats in parliaments or to choose a president, whereas referendums allow citizens to decide directly on some issue of policy. Elections are the cornerstone of representative democracy, and referendums are sometimes regarded as the equivalent of ‘direct democracy’. In practice, referendums are used only as an option in systems of representative democracy. The chapter first provides an overview of elections and electoral systems, focusing on electoral regulations and the main categories of electoral systems, namely single-member plurality, alternative vote, two-round system, and proportional representation. It then examines the rules under which elections are held, as well as the consequences of this variation. It also considers the use of the referendum and its potential impact on politics.


This chapter focuses on citizen attitudes, values, cultures, and behaviours, which underpin the British political system. Particularly important is voting for elected representatives, whether MPs, Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), Members of the Senedd (MSs), Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly (MLAs), directly elected mayors, police and crime commissioners (PCCs), local councillors, or even parish councillors. Then there are extensive forms of political participation from citizens and groups, ranging from complaining to public authorities to protesting. Both voting and participation are linked to wider attitudes and beliefs about politics. The chapter also provides an understanding of the different forms of turbulence that have emerged in recent years, in particular since 2014, with the arrival of populist movements, and the more frequent use of referendums.


Nieves Pérez-Solórzano Borragán and Michelle Cini

This chapter analyses the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union (EU), commonly known as Brexit. The chapter examines the historical context that shaped the UK’s decision to join the European Economic Community (EEC) and its subsequent relationship with the EU. It charts the events leading to the 2016 EU referendum, including the campaign and explains the reasons for the narrow Leave vote. The Withdrawal Agreement (WA) negotiations under Article 50 are discussed by focusing on process, actors, and outcomes. This is followed by an evaluation of the negotiations leading to the signing of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) and its implications. The chapter ends by discussing the impact and implications of the UK’s departure from the EU.