European integration has been both a divisive and, at times, explosive issue in British party politics. This chapter explains why, since the 1950s, neither of the two main national parties has adopted a consistent stance on European integration, and also why European integration still has such explosive potential, particularly for the Conservative Party. Divisions on Europe tend to be within, rather than between, parties and are crucially affected by the size of the governing party, party majorities or the effects of coalition government. Party leaders have been understood as seeking to balance between pro- and anti-EU wings of their parties, but with varying degrees of success. Balancing within and between parties has become more difficult in the context of coalition since the 2010 election. We also look at the rise of eurosceptic parties, particularly UKIP, as a distinct force in British politics, albeit without having yet made a breakthrough in ‘first order’ national elections to Parliament. The growth of euroscepticism is indicative of the ‘uncorking of the bottle’ of popular dissent about the European project and the move from a ‘permissive consensus’ to a ‘constraining dissensus’, as Hooghe and Marks (2008) put it.
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- British Party Politics and the Rise of Euroscepticism
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- Chapter 9