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Brexit and the decentred state

Beech, Matt


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Dr Matt Beech
Reader in Politics and Director of the Centre for British Politics


The aim of this article is to examine Brexit through the lens of decentred theory as articulated by Bevir (2013) in A Theory of Governance. Decentered theory regards the British state as neither a monolith (as per modernist social science) nor a myth (as per post-modern theory) but rather as a repository of norms, customs, practices and thought acquired by elite actors, professionals and policy-networks. The central thesis of the article is that the idea of the decentered state, as an explanation of state governance, can be seen in the phenomenon of Brexit. The article uses literatures on governance and contemporary history to examine the relevance of the concept of the decentered state. Then it considers the case study of British politics in the 1970s as a precursor to the decentering effects of Brexit on state governance. The article then moves to consider three dimensions of the phenomenon of Brexit which can be understood as decentering practices in and of themselves: the referendum vote; the negotiations; and competing ‘imaginings’ of the United Kingdom in a post-EU membership environment. The article’s findings represent a fresh and novel means by which scholars can utilise the idea of the decentered state as an intellectual tool to explain the phenomenon of Brexit.


Beech, M. (2020). Brexit and the decentred state. Public policy and administration, Article 095207672090500.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 16, 2019
Online Publication Date Feb 16, 2020
Publication Date 2020
Deposit Date May 16, 2019
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal Public Policy and Administration
Print ISSN 0952-0767
Electronic ISSN 1749-4192
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Article Number 095207672090500
Edition Special Issue: The Decentered State
Keywords Brexit; Decentred State; Governance; United Kingdom
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