Euroscepticism under Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron: From Theory to Practice

Abstract : Margaret Thatcher was often portrayed as the "spiritual mother" of Euroscepticism. But with hindsight, one can argue that Thatcher's Euroscepticism was actually limited to her vision of Europe and her divisive style. Over twenty years later, David Cameron's European policy, though inspired by Thatcher's Euroscepticism, is now based on a clear-cut Eurosceptic agenda which is nevertheless criticised for being more moderate than that of today's Eurosceptics. This article will first argue that although Thatcher's European agenda could hardly be assessed as Eurosceptic as such, it paved the way for the radicalisation of Euroscepticism, not only as narrative but as a set of actual policies towards the EU, to such an extent that it changed the dynamics of the Conservative Party's structure. The article will then show how practical Euroscepticism under David Cameron has come to permeate party leadership in terms of agenda-setting and party management, and propose tentative explanations for Eurosceptic radicalisation in the party. Finally, it will be suggested that over and above institutional, constitutional and ideological environmental causes, usually put forward as affecting Conservative attitudes to European integration today, more relevant explanations can be found in party organisational changes.
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Submitted on : Monday, March 14, 2016 - 4:26:47 PM
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Agnès Alexandre-Collier. Euroscepticism under Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron: From Theory to Practice. Observatoire de la société britannique, La Garde : UFR Lettres et sciences humaines, Université du Sud Toulon Var, 2015, The legacy of Thatcherism, 17, ⟨10.4000/osb.1778⟩. ⟨halshs-01287011⟩

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