Slipping Loose

The UK's Long Drift Away From the European Union

Martin Westlake

£60.00  |  $90.00
ISBN 9781788212014
£60.00  |  $90.00
ISBN 9781788212021
240 pages   |  234 x 156mm   |  29 November 2019


"A deeply informed study of Britain's difficult relationship with the Continent and compulsory reading for both europhiles and eurosceptics."  – Vernon Bogdanor, Professor of Government, King's College London

"Martin Westlake’s analysis is exceptionally well informed. It draws on an extensive understanding of the EU’s development, a rich range of primary data and sources (including an interview with David Cameron), and – importantly – Westlake’s own insights from a 30-year career involving positions in the Council of Ministers, the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee ... an engaging blend of empirical richness, insider perspectives and cogent analysis." – David Phinnemore, European Political Science

"A thoughtful and fascinating book. Martin Westlake does what far too few people bother to do any more. He has taken the trouble to place the ongoing Brexit saga into a broader historical context. The result is both enjoyable and hugely rewarding. I recommend it to all those interested in understanding the UK’s relationship with the European Union." – Anand Menon, Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs, King's College London

"In a subtle account of the UK's fifty-year non-engagement with the European project, Martin Westlake brings his professional and academic erudition to bear on the issue of the moment. A gripping story of hesitation, negligence and retreat, Slipping Loose offers a longer view of Brexit, one that is likely to occupy minds on both sides of the Channel for years to come." – Luuk van Middelaar, Professor of European Union Law, Leiden University and author of Alarums and Excursions


The 2016 Brexit referendum result has been portrayed as the consequence of various short-term phenomena: the financial crisis, austerity, migration and UKIP, to name a few. Overnight the political future of the UK took an unprecedented and unexpected turn against EU membership. Since then, the UK’s government has been charting unknown waters in its negotiations to disentangle the United Kingdom from its membership and obligations to the European Union.

In this book, Martin Westlake argues that focus on the short-term, reflex action of the Brexit vote has overshadowed a series of longer-term trends that were inexorably leading, or pushing, the UK away from full membership of the European Union. He shows that the UK was an increasingly semi-detached member, requiring ever more elaborate and ingenious fixes with opt-outs and rebates to keep its involvement in the project. Rather than a sudden, impulsive act of rejection, Brexit should be seen as having taken place over a number of years at various levels: a gradual slipping of the ties that bound the country to the European Union.


Introduction: how shorter-term woods have blinded us to longer-term trees
1. The means to an end: the looming prospect of a referendum
2. How to be out without being out: the deepening conundrum of the eurozone
3. To vanishing point and beyond: the strategic goal of enlargement and its logical consequences
4. Being careful what you wish for: the British in the European Parliament, before and after proportional representation
5. The not-so-mysterious case of the disappearing Sir Humphreys
6. We don’t agree: the spitzenkandidaten procedure and British political parties
7. And the people? Were we ever really In?
Conclusions: chronicle of a Brexit foretold?

Author Information

Martin Westlake is Visiting Professor in Practice at the European Institute, London School of Economics, Visiting Professor at the College of Europe, Bruges, and a research fellow in the Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics. He has worked in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Council of Ministers and the European Commission, with the European Parliament, and since 2003, in the European Economic and Social Committee, where he served as Secretary General from 2008 to 2013. He has published widely on European institutions and on European and UK politics, including a major political biography of Neil Kinnock.

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