"Investors expect a deal to be struck — but nearly all of those in the British and EU establishment thought that Brexit wouldn't happen at all."

What does "the British and EU establishment" mean in this context?

Does it mean:
a. the British people and the EU organization responsible for Brexit?
b. the British government and the EU organization responsible for Brexit?
c. the British-EU organization responsible for Brexit?
d. something else?

  • What is it about the verb thought that makes you think there is some assignment of responsibility?
    – TimR
    Sep 29, 2017 at 10:16

1 Answer 1


When the word establishment is used in a political sense, it "generally denotes a dominant group or elite that holds power or authority in a nation or organisation." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Establishment)

So in this case, the phrase refers to the highest levels of government or political leadership, both within Britain and within the EU. It also acknowledges that the elites from Britain and from each of the other EU members are a part of the single entity that is thought to hold a grip on that power.

Finally, I don't think that the article is assigning responsibility for Brexit to any party. Rather, it is pointing out that the Establishment failed to anticipate the passing of the Brexit referendum. In the same manner, the Establishment may fail to anticipate problems during the actual Brexit that will cause significant issues to investors. The article that you linked to cites text from a larger discussion of Brexit's potential impacts. The text immediately following what you've quoted reads,

A chance remains, however, that negotiations break down completely, Reid's team said.

"The real financial crisis could arise if the UK experiences a dramatic ‘hard’ Brexit with relations completely breaking down with the EU. This would not only have economic implications for the UK and the EU but also on geopolitics."


  • It's all good up to neither of those groups. The word establishment is given in the singular because the implication is they're all in the same group (regardless of whether they "come" from Britain or mainland Europe). It's the group that collectively took it for granted the referendum would go the way they wanted (Brits were "supposed" to reject Brexit). Sep 28, 2017 at 17:06
  • @FumbleFingers I missed that, and coming from across the pond, I probably didn't capture the nuance of the full phrase in the original question. Would it be more accurate to explain that in this particular case, the phrase is used to emphasize Britain's dominant role within the EU, and at the same time capture the entirety of the EU?
    – mathewb
    Sep 28, 2017 at 20:00
  • I don't think so. It seems to me what's being emphasised is that one single "Establishment" dominates the entire EU (including Britain). The article's target readership is "ordinary" private investors, who are assumed to have no strong political views as regards Brexit (or at least, the publishers don't want to explicitly take sides, in case this alienates some readers). But they can safely slag off "The Establishment" for not anticipating the current situation (and still not reacting appropriately), thus prolonging the uncertainty that bothers investors so much. Sep 29, 2017 at 11:57
  • @FumbleFingers thank you for the feedback. I've made a couple of changes that I hope improve the quality of my answer. I think that I took the question at face value initially, so hopefully this is now a more useful answer.
    – mathewb
    Sep 29, 2017 at 14:07
  • I hope I haven't just "bullied" you into making those changes (which will be enough for me to upvote once I post this comment). But I think it's important to clarify that "the Establishment" in OP's context refers to a single "group" of people. Not an official group in any meaningful sense - mostly just loosely-allied people who share "common cause" (usually, supporting the status quo because they benefit from, and largely control it). As is usually the case, OP's reference is effectively "pejorative". Sep 29, 2017 at 15:29

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