Political, process and programme failures in the Brexit fiasco: exploring the role of policy deception

Darrin Baines, Sharron Brewer, Adrian Kay*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We propose a conceptual framework of policy deception to help identify, analyse and explain Brexit as a policy fiasco. The framework casts light on the political use of the device of an in/out European Union (EU) referendum by David Cameron. The paper develops the argument that the referendum did not offer a binary choice between two policy options for the United Kingdom's (UK) relationship with the EU representing different, but commensurable preferences, because one option was ‘baseless’ in that it was unfounded in any policy analysis. The label of policy deception usefully reveals that many of the political, process and programme failures at the heart of the Brexit fiasco have their roots in the referendum. We conclude that the concept of policy deception contributes usefully to emerging work on why the Brexit policy fiasco occurred, and is likely to be a fruitful topic for future work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)742-760
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Issue number5
Early online date28 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.


  • Brexit
  • David Cameron
  • policy deception
  • policy fiasco
  • political failure
  • referendum


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