The Constitution Unit


The Parliamentary Battle over Brexit

NEW BOOK: Meg Russell & Lisa James provide the first detailed account of the extraordinary way the Brexit process played out in parliament. Order with 30% off using code below!

The Parliamentary Battle over Brexit book image
"A beautifully researched, thoughtful, and morally alert examination of one of the most difficult and divisive issues in British history." - Rory Stewart, Former Conservative Cabinet Minister and co-host of The Rest is Politics podcast

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Following the 2016 referendum, the hotly contested issue of Brexit raised fundamental questions about the workings of UK democracy. While initially intended to re-establish 'parliamentary sovereignty', Brexit wrought significant damage on the reputation of parliament. 

The Parliamentary Battle over Brexit by Unit Director Meg Russell and Research Fellow Lisa James, provides answers to those who want to understand the bitter arguments that occurred over Brexit, what might have been handled better, and the role that parliament played. 

Charting the full story of the parliamentary battle over Brexit, Russell and James show that it wasn't always what it seemed. Using careful documentary research and extensive interviews with key protagonists, they explore multiple nail-biting moments, procedural innovations and political 'what ifs'. The book puts the events of Brexit into context and provides a clear and reliable document of record on a complex and disputed story. Ultimately, it argues that Brexit was largely a battle inside the Conservative Party for which parliament got the blame.

To receive 30% off The Parliamentary Battle over Brexit, order a copy below and use code AAFLYG6.


Order the book with 30% off 

What people say about the book


"This book is of paramount importance. The first proper look at what happened in those dreadful years, by extremely authoritative figures, taking no prisoners in its assessment. Absolutely vital reading." - Ian Dunt, Columnist, i Newspaper & Host, Origin Story podcast

"I was engrossed in Brexit for years — it feels as though it's finally possible to get some perspective, and Meg [Russell] and Lisa James's book does that brilliantly" - Ros Taylor, The Bunker Podcast

"An authoritative, comprehensive guide, written with great analytical lucidity and narrative verve". Rafael Behr, Politics on the Couch podcast

"I doubt whether anyone will ever improve on Russell & James’s account. It is highly detailed, lucid, and painstakingly accurate... sure-footed and faultless.” - Chris Grey, Brexit and Beyond blog

"In their analysis ... Russell and James have written a book that will undoubtedly stand as the definitive text on the parliamentary battle for Brexit." - Katy Hayward, International Affairs

"The Parliamentary Battle over Brexit [therefore] recounts a profoundly political and human drama. It is incisive, illuminating and readable." - Helen Parr, Political Quarterly

"Brexit was a serious and destabilising political event, but also an extraordinary parliamentary soap opera. This accessible book provides a definitive, compelling account of every improbable plot twist, while identifying important lessons for the future of our democracy." - Dr Hannah White, Director, Institute for Government

"Parliament was often the centre of national attention on Brexit. For a while in 2019, the BBC's Parliament channel's ratings even beat those for MTV. To really understand what went on, and what it all means, you can do no better than to read this meticulously researched book." - Anand Menon, Director of UK in a Changing Europe and Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at King's College, London

"The 2016 referendum and its aftermath crystallised long-running divisions over our EU membership, within political parties and the wider public. This thoughtful book charts what happened, identifies what could have been handled better, and helps outline how we can overcome the divisions and return to a more consensual democratic discourse." - Gisela Stuart, former Labour MP and chair of the 2016 Vote Leave campaign


Events and podcasts

  • Politics on the Couch PodcastPopulism, democracy and the parliamentary battle over Brexit (1 hr, 10 mins). Meg Russell with Rafael Behr. 21 March 2023.  
  • Constitution Unit PodcastThe Parliamentary Battle over Brexit and the Constitution (1hr, 14 mins). Meg Russell and Lisa James with David Gauke, Joanna Cherry and Robert Saunders. 23 March 2023.
  • The Bunker Podcast: A losing battle: How Brexit tore parliament apart (32 mins). Meg Russell and Lisa James, with Ros Taylor. 28 March 2023.
  • UK in a Changing Europe eventThe Parliamentary Battle over Brexit and the Conservative Party (1hr, 15 mins). Meg Russell and Lisa James with Lord (Gavin) Barwell, Sir Graham Brady and Isabel Hardman. 29 March 2023.
  • UCL Uncovering Politics podcast: Meg Russell and Lisa James talk to Alan Renwick (36 mins), 27 April 2023.

Summary blog posts on the book

This book is a key output from the ‘Brexit, Parliament and the Constitution’ project, funded through Constitution Unit Director Meg Russell's Senior Fellowship with the ESRC-funded UK in a Changing Europe (UKICE) programme.