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Eric Lagenbacher

Observers across Europe and the world were shocked when British voters decided in June 2016 to leave the European Union. Since the Brexit decision, British politics have been in disarray and the government’s incoherent negotiation positions have created much economic and political uncertainty. Germans and others have had to formulate policy based on assumptions and predictions. Despite slightly different emphases, all mainstream German parties have endorsed a harder line rejecting British efforts to cherry pick the most desirable aspects of a relationship with the EU. This stance accords with the preferences of European Union actors and the vast majority of member states. Moreover, the likely effects on the German economy will not be catastrophic. Thus, as much as Germans prefer that the UK remain in the EU, there is also little desire to accommodate British demands—and there may even be a sense of relief.

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The Social Consequences of Brexit for the UK and Europe

Euroscepticism, Populism, Nationalism, and Societal Division

Steve Corbett

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 (Goodwin and Heath 2016). 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 (Leconte 2010; Taggart 2004), but it also reveals strong elements of English nationalism (including British exceptionalism and social conservatism) in parts of British society (Henderson et al. 2016; Wellings 2010). 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.

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Ian Mahoney and Tony Kearon

In this article, we seek to provide a social quality–led analysis of some of the conditions that led to the UK population’s collective decision to leave the European Union in June 2016. We draw on interview data collected between 2010 and 2012 to argue that while not predictable, the seeds of the Brexit vote are well rooted in the conditions experienced by many of the working classes in Britain’s most deprived postindustrial communities. We argue that the ongoing decline in economic security, effective enfranchisement, social inclusion, and social empowerment have all had profound consequences for working-class communities and that the outcome of the Brexit vote was rooted, at least in part, in their subjective experiences and disenchantment forged in this ongoing decline.

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Christian Schweiger

With Brexit, the European Union has entered the first phase of unprecedented and potentially wider political disintegration. This is a reflection of the growing division between the EU’s core political agenda, defined under Germany’s increasingly uncompromising hegemonial leadership throughout the past decade, and the political preferences of the periphery in Southern and Central-Eastern Europe. This article critically examines the multiple effects of Germany’s dominant leadership role in the EU since the onset of the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis on the basis of a liberal intergovernmentalist perspective. It also considers future perspectives for German leadership in the EU after Brexit. As Angela Merkel enters her fourth term as German chancellor, she faces growing domestic political pressures and dwindling support for German leadership in the EU. German leadership is therefore more constrained than ever at a time when it is urgently needed to steer the EU away from further disintegration and towards lasting consolidation. The latter will require Berlin to engage profoundly in rebuilding a multilateral EU leadership constellation with France and Poland, which develops an inclusive policy agenda that represents the growing diversity of national interests amongst the remaining EU-27 member states.

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It Was Not Meant to Be This Way

An Unfortunate Case of Anglo-Saxon Parochialism?

Tom Frost

In June 2016, the United Kingdom’s electorate voted in a referendum to leave the European Union. This article examines ‘Brexit’ from the perspective of British, or English, exceptionalism. It argues that the Leave vote was caused by a number of factors: underlying myths and exceptionalism about the U.K. and its relationship with ‘Europe’; the fallout from the 2007–2008 financial crisis; the austerity policies undertaken in the U.K. since 2010; and the increased migration into the U.K. after the financial crisis, in particular from other EU Member States. The article concludes by arguing that Brexit should serve as an important lesson to listen to all people who feel abandoned by the EU, austerity and globalisation, to hear their stories and perspectives. Only then can we start to think about whether there are shared values and principles which could form the basis for a European politics of the future.

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Touring the Regions

(Dis)uniting the Kingdom on Holiday

Hazel Andrews

This article is concerned with social constructions of identity as they are manifest in the charter tourism resorts of Magaluf and Palmanova on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca. Based on ethnographic fieldwork involving periods of participant observation, the article highlights the ways in which mediators of tourists’ experiences feed into and off ideas of national identity and how these are practiced, consumed, and performed as an effervescent Britishness. At the same time, the article explores the ways in which this Britishness is informed by regional identities and differences linked to senses of self. The article highlights issues relating to social cohesion at a broad level in society, which has implications for inclusivity at a time when, post-Brexit referendum, these issues appear ever more urgent.

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Sara Crangle

Written against the backdrop of Brexit, this short article examines the long history of British disregard for modernist and experimental avant-garde aesthetics, one frequently commented upon by critics and artists over the past century. In What Ever Happened to Modernism? Josipovici added his voice to this chorus, but his focus on British insularity went unremarked by reviewers. In addition to considering this more recent text, the article lingers over Josipovici’s ‘English Studies and European Culture’, an essay written in the 1970s that presciently explores the symbiotic and primary relationship between England and the continent.

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Maryon McDonald

This is the first issue of this journal following the Brexit referendum vote in the U.K. It is perhaps fitting therefore that we have a Special Issue on diplomacy. The articles in this Special Issue (guest edited by Magnus Marsden, Diana Ibañez-Tirado and David Henig) deliberately try to move away from a perspective that would assume diplomacy to be the sole province of nation-state representatives or something that takes place only behind the closed doors of presidential or governmental offices and embassies. Instead, the focus here is on ‘unofficial’ and ‘everyday diplomacy’. The articles show how ethnography can highlight the often unrecognised grass-roots work that goes on to maintain trade and civility, to construct cosmopolitanisms, and to negotiate tension and conflict.

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Editorial

Brexit, Sustainability, Economics, Companies’ Responsibilities, and Current Representations

In the first article of this issue, Steve Corbett examines the 2016 Referendum on the United Kingdom’s (UK) European Union (EU) membership. The author presents the outcome of the referendum, the British Exit (Brexit), as a new EU phenomenon with implications that go beyond the UK’s relationship with the EU. It is an expression of the wider rise of right- and left-wing populism across Europe, including the Freedom Party of Austria and the Netherlands, Front National, Podemos, and Syriza political parties. These parties and their outriders articulate popular anger—among right-wing populists, anger at the perceived preferences given to some minority groups (e.g., immigrants) over others. However, both right- and left-wing populists express anger about disconnected and gilded political elites, about the privatization of profit, and about the socialization of risk for financial institutions and major corporations.

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Contemporary citizenship debates

The search for firm footing on shifting terrains

Harlan Koff and Carmen Maganda

In many ways, the sociopolitical events of 2016 and 2017 have brought to life many of the conceptual debates surrounding the nature and importance of citizenship. The election of President Donald Trump in the United States (US), the rejection of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC, and the vote on Brexit in the United Kingdom (UK), amongst other significant world events, have in many ways indicated a “crisis of citizenship” as disenchanted voters rejected their countries’ political establishments as much as they rejected specific policy proposals or platforms. Even the 2017 election of Emmanuel Macron as president of France over the nativist/populist candidate Marine Le Pen (which may have saved the European Union) represented an important realignment of the French political system.