This article examines the 2016 Referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union and draws on initial research into the reasons that the UK voted to leave and demographics of the leave vote. This initial analysis suggests that the Brexit (British Exit) vote reveals wider and deeper societal tensions along the lines of age, class, income, and education (). By providing an account of the background and events of the referendum, this article asserts that the vote was a case study in populist right-wing Eurosceptic discourse (; ), but it also reveals strong elements of English nationalism (including British exceptionalism and social conservatism) in parts of British society (; ). Given this, the article begins to make sense of Brexit from a social quality perspective and outlines a possible social quality approach to the UK and Europe post-Brexit.
Steve Corbett is a Lecturer in Social Policy at Liverpool Hope University, UK. His research interests include participatory democracy and social quality (in particular the concept of social empowerment), political ideology, and critical social policy analysis. He has written on the UK government’s “big society” idea and a qualitative study of how workplace democracy and local community democracy can improve social quality. His forthcoming work includes an account of the concept of “the social” in social policy, co-authored with Alan Walker, and research into regional film policy and self-organization of film clubs in northern England, co-authored with Bridgette Wessels.
Beck, W., L.J.G.van der Maesen, and A.Walker. 2012. “Theoretical Foundations.” In Social Quality: From Theory to Indicators, ed. L.J.G.van der Maesen and A.Walker, 44–69. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Beck, W., L.J.G.van der Maesen, and A.Walker. 2012. “Theoretical Foundations.” In Social Quality: From Theory to Indicators, ed. L.J.G.van der Maesen and A.Walker, 44–69. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.10.1007/978-0-230-36109-6_3)| false
Belam, M.2016. “One Month On, What Has Been the Impact of the Brexit Vote So Far?” Guardian, 22July. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/22/one-month-on-what-is-the-impact-of-the-brexit-vote-so-far (accessed 26 September 2016).)| false
Boyle, D., and R.Akkoc. 2016. “Labour MP Jo Cox Dies after Being Shot and Stabbed as Husband Urges People to “Fight Against the Hate” that Killed Her.” Telegraph, 16June. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/16/labour-mp-jo-cox-shot-in-leeds-witnesses-report/ (accessed 26 September 2016).)| false
Corbett, S.2014. “A Critical Qualitative Study of the Relationship between Social Empowerment and Participatory Democracy in the UK.” International Journal of Social Quality 4(1): 7–25.10.3167/IJSQ.2014.040102)| false
Crespy, A., and N.Verschueren2009. “From Euroscepticism to Resistance to European Integration: An Interdisciplinary Perspective.” Perspectives on European Politics and Society 10(3): 377–393.10.1080/15705850903105793)| false
Dennison, J., and N.Carl. 2016. “The Ultimate Causes of Brexit: History, Culture and Geography.” Democratic Audit, 18July. http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/explaining-brexit/ (accessed 26 September 2016).)| false
Dodd, V.2016. “Police Blame Worst Recorded Rise in Hate Crime on EU Referendum.” Guardian, 11July. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jul/11/police-blame-worst-rise-in-recorded-hate-on-eu-referendum (accessed 26 September 2016).)| false
Goodwin, M., and O.Heath. 2016. “Brexit Vote Explained: Poverty, Low Skills and Lack of Opportunities.” Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 31August. https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/brexit-vote-explained-poverty-low-skills-and-lack-opportunities (accessed 26 September 2016).)| false
Hacking, S.2015. “Social Quality in Britain: A Welfare State?” In Social Quality Theory: A New Perspective on Social Development, ed. K.Lin and P.Herrmann, 110–130. New York: Berghahn Books.10.2307/j.ctv6jmwcs.11)| false
Henley, J.2016. “Is the EU Really Dictating the Shape of your Bananas?” Guardian, 11May. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/may/11/boris-johnson-launches-the-vote-leave-battlebus-in-cornwall (accessed 26 September 2016).)| false
Ipsos MORI, 2016. “Politicians Are Still Trusted Less Than Estate Agents, Journalists and Bankers.” 22 January. https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3685/Politicians-are-still-trusted-less-than-estate-agents-journalists-and-bankers.aspx (accessed 26 September 2016).)| false
Kaufmann, E.2016. “It’s NOT the Economy, Stupid: Brexit as a Story of Personal Values.” LSE British Politics and Policy Blog, 7July. http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/personal-values-brexit-vote/ (accessed 26 September 2016).)| false
Leconte, C.2015. “From Pathology to Mainstream Phenomenon: Reviewing the Euroscepticism Debate in Research and Theory.” International Political Science Review. 36(3): 250–263.10.1177/0192512115576236)| false
Lizoain, D.2016. “The Missing Ballot Option.” In Brexit: The Politics of a Bad Idea, ed. D.Gow and H.Meyer, 30–34. New York: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in cooperation with Social Europe Publishing. Available at https://www.socialeurope.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Brexit-The-Politics-of-a-Bad-Idea.pdf (accessed 26 September 2016).)| false
Mason, R., J.Elgot, and R.Syal. 2016. “Osborne on Ropes after ‘Punishment Budget’ Plan Infuriates Tory MPs.” Guardian, 15June. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/15/osborne-britain-eu-more-important-career-tory-mps (accessed 26 September 2016).)| false
Mowat, L.2016. “Marine Le Pen Calls for Frexit after ‘Apocalyptic’ Claims of Brexit Did Not Happen.” Daily Express, 24August. http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/703232/Marine-Le-Pen-Frexit-France-EU-Brexit-Front-National (accessed 26 September 2016).)| false
Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. 2016. “Study Shows that Majority of Press Coverage in EU Referendum Campaign Was Heavily Skewed in Favour of Brexit in First Two Months of Campaign.” University of Oxford, 20May. http://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/news/study-shows-majority-press-coverage-eu-referendum-campaign-was-heavily-skewed-favourbrexit#sthash.DZdOS984.dpu (accessed 26 September 2016).)| false
Walker, A.2015. “Social Quality and Welfare System Sustainability.” In Social Quality Theory: A New Perspective on Social Development, ed. K.Lin and P.Herrmann, 51–64. New York: Berghahn Books.10.2307/j.ctv6jmwcs.7)| false