Politics of the European Union - PO611

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
5 15 (7.5) DR J O'Mahony







The decision by a majority of the British electorate who voted on Thursday 23rd June 2016 to leave the EU sent shockwaves throughout Europe and the world and created a political earthquake within the UK's political system. Focusing on the European level, as this module does, the result of the referendum plunged the EU into its most serious existential crisis as, for the first time, a member state has signalled its desire to exit. According to Marine Le Pen, leader of France's Front National, the Brexit vote was 'by far the most important political event taking place in our continent since the fall of the Berlin Wall'. The reverberations of this decision will be felt for many years to come and affect an EU experiencing what some commentators have termed a 'polycrisis’ since the Euro-crisis erupted in Greece six years ago. As well as bailing out Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus and the economic fall-out from the global financial crisis of 2008-9, the EU has also witnessed the worst refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War, terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels and heightened tension with Putin’s Russia over the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. The EU has never been under such pressure and its resilience so tested. The purpose of this module in this context is thus two-fold. First, we learn and understand how the EU has reached where it is today, how its political system works, its strengths and weaknesses and how it is driven both the politics and economics of its member states and the global system. At the same time, we analyse the process of Brexit, how it will be managed by the UK and the EU27 and its implications for the future of the EU. There has certainly never been a more challenging or interesting time to learn about the EU!


This module appears in:

Contact hours

11 hours lectures, 11 hours seminars

Method of assessment

50% coursework (2 equally weighted multiple choice question quizes (20%), Essay of 2500 words (30%)), 50% exam (2hr)

Indicative reading

Cini, M. and N. Perez-Solorzano Borragan. Eds. 2013. European Union Politics. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press: Oxford.
Hix, S. and B Hoyland. 2011. The Political System of the European Union. Third Edition. Palgrave: Basingstoke.
Nugent, N. 2010. The Government and Politics of the European Union. Seventh Edition. Palgrave: Basingstoke.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will:
- be familiar with and understand the main constitutional and governmental structures of today’s European Union;
- be able to analyse and critically assess the origins and effects of these structures, by using the conceptual and theoretical tools of comparative politics, international relations and relevant sources;
- appreciate and be able to explain the changing nature of the political process in the European Union and the role played by political parties, interest groups, social movements and public opinion;
- be able to assess the role and influence of states on the political process of the EU;
- be able to interpret and critically evaluate the main issues in the contemporary political debate in the EU.

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