Politics of the European Union - PO611

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Autumn 5 15 (7.5) DR J O'Mahony checkmark-circle


The decision by a small majority of the British electorate in June 2016 to leave the European Union (EU) sent shockwaves throughout Europe and the world and created a political earthquake within the political system of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK). For the first time, a member state signalled its desire to exit the EU. From an EU perspective, this decision is yet another challenge the EU has faced since the Euro-crisis erupted in Greece ten years ago. The EU has also experienced a refugee crisis as well as a number of terrorist attacks and a rule of law crisis in Poland and Hungary. Changes in the international system have also affected the EU with heightened tension with Putin's Russia over the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. Finally, the election of Donald Trump as US President with an accompanying weakening of the liberal international order and an increase in trade wars and disputes has added further instability. In response, EU member state governments, parliaments and the EU’s institutions have begun a dialogue on ideas to recast the EU in this changing environment.

In this module we will endeavour to 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 this time of uncertainty and flux. We will also look at the process of how the UK is exiting the EU, how it has been managed by the UK government and the EU27 and its implications for the future of the EU and the future of the UK. There has certainly never been a more challenging or interesting time to learn about the EU and its politics!


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22
Private study hours: 128
Total study hours: 150

Method of assessment

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

Indicative reading

Cini, Michelle and Nieves Pérez-Solórzano Borragán (eds). 2019. European Union Politics. 6th ed. Oxford University Press: Oxford
Nugent, N. 2017. The Government and Politics of the European Union. 8th Edition. Palgrave Education: London.
McCormick, J. 2017. Understanding the European Union. A Concise Introduction. Palgrave Education: London.
Hodson, D. and J. Peterson. Eds. 2017. Institutions of the European Union. 4th Edition. Oxford University Press: Oxford.
Bache, I., S. Bulmer, S. George and O. Parker. 2014. Politics in the European Union. 4th ed. Oxford University Press: Oxford.
Jones, E., A. Menon and S. Weatherill. Eds. 2012. The Oxford Handbook of the European Union. Oxford University Press: Oxford. Available as an e-book.
Zimmerman, Hubert and Andreas Dür (eds). 2012. Key Controversies in European Integration. Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke.
Hix, Simon and Bjørn Høyland. 2011. The Political System of the European Union. 3rd ed. Palgrave: Basingstoke.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

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.


  1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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