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Identity and Brexit: Five Readings of the Referendum

Political Identification in Europe: Community in Crisis?

ISBN: 978-1-83982-125-7, eISBN: 978-1-83982-124-0

Publication date: 13 April 2021


On 23 June 2016, 51.9% of those who voted in the UK referendum on membership of the European Union (EU) opted to leave. The impact of this result upon both British and European politics has been profoundly disruptive and divisive. It not only marks a ‘seismic moment in post-war British politics’ (McGowan, 2018, p. 4) but has also disrupted expectations for the European project; no Member State had previously left the Union. Political institutions have been thrown into disarray, many citizens remain in a situation of existential uncertainty, and the political realm is cleaving. What has come to be known as ‘Brexit’ seemingly marks a crisis; a tear or a wrench in the very fabric of European politics, or perhaps a knot in which different socio-political tendencies have become entangled. In this chapter, the authors are interested not so much in diagnosing the factors that led to Brexit as they are the different interpretations that the ‘Brexit crisis’ is now being given. The authors map out five readings of ‘the Brexit crisis’ and contend that any attempt to grasp the meaning of Brexit demands drawing on all of them.



Abrams, B., Büttner, S. and Machin, A. (2021), "Identity and Brexit: Five Readings of the Referendum", Machin, A. and Meidert, N. (Ed.) Political Identification in Europe: Community in Crisis?, Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 147-160.



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