The impact of European integration on the Danish and British party systems

Burbridge, Philip (2001) The impact of European integration on the Danish and British party systems. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

[thumbnail of Thesis document] PDF (Thesis document) - Submitted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike.



European integration has been the zeitgeist of Western European politics since the end of the Second World War. Governments and parties not committed to the project have been unable to avoid the issue in the wake of ongoing integration. It has generated unprecedented inter- and intra-party tensions in certain member states due to the passions aroused by the threat that European integration poses to national sovereignty.
This study attempts to fill the gap in research on the impact of 'ever closer union' on party systems by examining those of Denmark and the United Kingdom, which are widely recognised as the European Unions two most "Eurosceptical" members. The approach has been through the medium of personal interviews with committed political actors across the party spectrum in both countries, supported by other primary and secondary evidence. The aim was to assess whether -or not European integration had generated permanent party system change commensurate with the sound and fury the issue had provoked on the national stage. A second aim was to show how the mapping of such changes might allow the behaviour of other parties and party systems to be predicted as European integration continues.
The research concludes that European integration has severely tested party and party system cohesion, but individual parties and their systems have proved remarkably adaptable and resilient in absorbing the issue. Furthermore, both inter- and intra-party divisions declined significantly through the 1980s and 1990s and by 2001, 'Europeanisation' had extended across both party systems that embraced all parties apart from those on the far right and far left in Denmark and the growing Eurosceptic wing of the British Conservative Party. An overwhelming consensus exists on the efficacy of membership of the European Union, but tensions remain on the desirability of finiher integration. Also, attitudes to membership and plans for future integration break along party lines in the two countries more clearly than was the case when they became members in 1973. This situation is likely to continue as integration deepens, widening cleavages between parties rather than within them, but posing little threat to the party systems themselves.

Repository Staff Only: item control page