When Planets Collide: The British Conservative Party and the Discordant Goals of Delivering Brexit and Preserving the Domestic Union, 2016–2019
This article explores how the British Conservative Party has dealt with the dilemmas arising from its pursuit of two increasingly discordant goals: delivering Brexit and maintaining the domestic Union. Drawing on interviews and analyses of parliamentary debates, we identify a resurgence in the 2016–2019 period of an older belief in a unitarist state, and a new form of pro-Union activism in policy terms. Against those commentators who depict Britain’s Conservatives as having abandoned their unionist vocation, we explore the coalescence of a more assertive and activist strain of unionist sentiment. But we also find a willingness among Conservatives at the centre to sub-contract thinking about non-English parts of the UK to ‘local’ political representatives such as the Democratic Unionist Party and the Scottish Conservatives, and a growing anxiety about how to handle emergent tensions between the competing priorities associated with delivering Brexit and maintaining the domestic Union.
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