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Review Essay

Why the British Chose Brexit

Behind the Scenes of the Referendum

In This Review

Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of Brexit
Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of Brexit
By Craig Oliver
Hodder & Stoughton, 2017, 432 pp. Purchase
All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class
All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class
By Tim Shipman
William Collins, 2016, 688 pp. Purchase

The United Kingdom’s vote last year to leave the European Union was a seismic event. The British people ignored the advice of the leaders of all their major political parties and of virtually all experts. George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, told voters that leaving would wreck the British economy. U.S. President Barack Obama warned that it would reduce the United Kingdom’s influence on the world stage. Financial markets, many pollsters, and political pundits all anticipated that voters would heed the elites’ advice. And yet they decided not to, setting off a process destined to transform the country’s politics, economy, and society.

No wonder, then, that the referendum has generated a rash of books seeking to explain, or at least describe, what happened. The pace of academic publishing means that most of those that have already appeared are quick and dirty accounts by journalists or

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