Brexit: A Love Story?-logo

Brexit: A Love Story?


You know we’re leaving the EU but this is the story of how the UK got here. Mark Mardell uncovers the fractious yet intriguing story of Britain’s relationship with the EU.

You know we’re leaving the EU but this is the story of how the UK got here. Mark Mardell uncovers the fractious yet intriguing story of Britain’s relationship with the EU.
More Information


United Kingdom




You know we’re leaving the EU but this is the story of how the UK got here. Mark Mardell uncovers the fractious yet intriguing story of Britain’s relationship with the EU.




17. Lancaster House and red lines

January 2017 and Theresa May delivers her now infamous Lancaster House speech. But how was it decided what it would say and where it would be said? Mark Mardell dissects whether the speech backed the Prime Minister into a corner by setting out her red lines, or if it was merely the start of the long negotiating process. Email: Twitter: @BBCPM


16. Article 50 and the Avatar of Hate

It took the Government nine months to trigger Article 50 after the British public voted to leave the European Union. At the time, some said it was overdue. Since, people have said it was too soon. Running alongside that debate, though, was whether it could even be triggered at all. Mark Mardell unpicks the attempt to trigger Article 50 without a vote in Parliament and the ensuing court case, how a business woman was thrust into the limelight and felt she became “an avatar of hate” and...


15. Road to Conference

After Theresa May became Prime Minister, one of the first jobs was to set out her vision for implementing Brexit. Integral to doing that were her Chiefs of Staff – Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill. Mark Mardell considers how Mrs May positioned herself as the person to deliver Brexit, the influence her chiefs had at the time, and - as she approached her first party conference that Autumn – what her speeches said about how negotiations would progress. Email: Twitter: @BBCPM


14. Inside May's Mind

In June 2016, Theresa May put herself forward to be the new Prime Minister, the person who would navigate the UK's exit from the European Union. Her campaign, however, was to be short lived and she moved into Number 10 just a few weeks later. What did she think about the EU? Mark Mardell delves into what she said to friends and colleagues, the role she played in the Referendum campaign itself and what this tells us about her approach to the subsequent negotiations. Oh, and what does "Brexit...


13. An Island Nation

In 1973, there were celebrations when Britain joined the European Community. But there were always those against the UK being part of the project. Over the next 45 years, there were debates and clashes, headlines and speeches; everyone speaking just as passionately about membership, regardless of which side they were on. In Brexit: A Love Story? Mark Mardell has talked to the people who were there at those key moments, trawled through the BBC's archives to hear what was said at the time, and...


12. Five miscalculations and a resignation

When the Conservatives won the 2015 election, David Cameron reiterated his manifesto promise to hold an in-out referendum on Britain's membership of the EU. Not long after, the starting gun was fired and the battle lines drawn. What followed? It's a well charted path; but Mark Mardell talks to the people who were there at the key moments, to see what they think the defining factors are, and whether they think things could - should - have been done differently. Email:


11. Banging on about Europe

How much can one man do? During his first speech as Conservative Party leader, David Cameron insisted the party needed to stop "banging on about Europe". So how did he come to promise an in-out referendum 7 years later? Mark Mardell charts the rise of UKIP and Nigel Farage, and asks what impact this had on Cameron, the Conservatives and the country. Email: Twitter: @BBCWorldatOne


10. Pole position

The European Union started with just 6 member countries. Over the years 6 more - including the United Kingdom - joined the community. But it was in 2004 when the single largest expansion saw 10 more countries join in one go. And with membership came freedom of movement. Mark Mardell looks at what impact this had on Britain's relationship with the EU and whether enough consideration was given to the number of people who would come to live and work in the UK? Email:


9. Blair, Brown and a bike ride

In 1997, Tony Blair swept to power with New Labour and Britain won the Eurovision song contest with Katrina and the Waves. Was there also a renewed enthusiasm for the European project? Mark Mardell recalls the twists and turns of Labour's relationship with Brussels. Could the fresh-faced, charismatic new Prime Minister rekindle the romance? And if not, why not? Email: Twitter: @BBCWorldatOne


8. The Most Successful Party That Never Won A Seat

A blustering billionaire playing politics, or a brave man doing his best for his country? Sir James Goldsmith divided opinion, but he united both sides of politics in promising a referendum on the euro. Mark Mardell reflects on the party that only fought one election, didn't win a single seat, but secured a promise that in the end mattered more. And while that referendum never came to pass, he paved the way for the one that did, nineteen years after his death. Email:


7. Major and the mad cows

In 1990, the agriculture minister fed his daughter a beef burger in front of the tv cameras to prove British beef was safe. But five years later, the government was forced to admit a link between BSE and a new, human disease. As Mark Mardell follows the twists and turns of Britain's 45 year relationship with the European Union, he hears about the swift reaction from the E U: British beef was banned, and a public health crisis was moulded into the familiar shape of a battle with Brussels....


6. Major’s Bastards and the Battle of Maastricht

Tensions rise in the Conservative Party as the Prime Minister negotiates with the European Community member states in Maastricht. Mark Mardell follows the twists and turns of Britain's 45 year relationship with the European Union, but even though John Major succeeds in arranging Britain's opt outs of the 1992 treaty - on the single currency and the social chapter - is it enough to appease the rebels in his government? Email: Twitter: @BBCWorldatOne


5. Up Yours Delors!

Stepping away from this series' timeline, Mark Mardell considers what role the press had in influencing public opinion about the European Union during it's 45 year relationship with Britain. Why did the newspapers go from broadly supporting the political project when we joined in 1973, to a fractured landscape of discord and - at times - antagonistic hatred? Did proprietors such as Rupert Murdoch and Conrad Black dictate the agenda, or was it correspondents in Brussels? Or was it the...


4. From Bruges to Bust

After her success renegotiating the EEC budget, Margaret Thatcher gave a speech at the College de Europe in Bruges, now widely considered to be a eurosceptic battle cry. But was it ever meant to be? Mark Mardell continues the journey through Britain's relationship with the European Union. From shadowing the Deutschmark to the resignation of Geoffrey Howe, he looks at the role Europe played in her downfall. Email: Twitter: @BBCWorldatOne


3. Battling Maggie's blues

It's 1979, Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative government have been voted into power in Britain, and one of her first tasks is to reduce the contribution the UK pays to the European Economic Community. Mark Mardell follows the new Prime Minsiter through negotiations with the other EEC member states - from the 1979 Dublin summit to Fontainbleau 5 years later - discovering how difficult relationships were formed, tears were shed and the controversial rebate was agreed. Email:...


2. Yes to Britain in Europe

The 1975 referendum to remain in the European Economic Community was a historic first for Britain. As well as dividing the country, the argument split the Labour Party, who were then in Government. Mark Mardell explores the UK's 45 year love affair with Europe, looking at Anthony Wedgewood Benn's call for a referendum and Prime Minister Harold Wilson's fight to keep the party together. Email: Twitter: @BBCWorldatOne


1. Fanfare for the future

It's 1973 and Britain is joining the European Economic Community. For some it's the culmination of years of hard work and a political necessity for the country. But for others, concerns about food prices, sovereignty and the English language remain unresolved. Mark Mardell explores the UK's 45 year love affair with Europe, starting with the role that Edward Heath - the Prime Minister at the time - had in negotiating entry into the common market. Email: Twitter: @BBCWorldatOne