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Brexit: A Fluke, or the Future of British Conservatism? Analyzing the Post-Brexit Conservative Party’s Populist Status Quo Público

The British people's vote to leave the European Union in 2016 — known as the Brexit vote — represents the outcome of a successful populist movement. More recently, the Conservative Party’s staggering 2019 electoral success shows that the populist “Get Brexit Done” message remains popular amongst both traditional Conservatives as well as broad swaths of the working class in former Labour strongholds. This study asks why the Conservative Party has changed so markedly in response to the ongoing Brexit negotiations and explores explanations for the Party’s new rhetoric, policy changes, and factional shifts within the halls of Westminster. While some scholars look at the supply-side causes of populism and others look at the demand-side causes, this study applies a third school of thought that examines the relationship between supply and demand by analyzing a series of interviews with Conservative Party staff as well as public opinion polling. In doing so, the study concludes that there has been a deep, reciprocal, and simultaneous onset of populist Euroscepticism within both the Conservative Party and the working class that has structurally re-aligned the Conservative Party from more ‘libertarian’ to more ‘authoritarian’ in nature. A feedback loop has locked the new Conservative base into a new mentality that the Conservative Party then reciprocates and feeds back to the voters. This research provides the broader scholarly literature on populism with an example of the aftermath of populist movements when both elites and voters are able to forge relationships and work together to achieve their goals.

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