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Crossing the Race Line: “No Polish, No Blacks, No Dogs” in Brexit Britain? or, the Great British Brexit Swindle

Europe's Malaise

ISBN: 978-1-83909-042-4, eISBN: 978-1-83909-041-7

Publication date: 7 October 2020


In June 2016, a clear majority of English voters chose to unilaterally take the United Kingdom out of the European Union (EU). According to many of the post-Brexit vote analyses, the single strongest motivating factor driving this vote was “immigration” in Britain, an issue which had long been the central mobilizing force of the United Kingdom Independence Party. The chapter focuses on how – following the bitter demise of multiculturalism – these Brexit related developments may now signal the end of Britain's postcolonial settlement on migration and race, the other parts of a progressive philosophy which had long been marked out as a proud British distinction from its neighbors. In successfully racializing, lumping together, and relabeling as “immigrants” three anomalous non-“immigrant” groups – asylum seekers, EU nationals, and British Muslims – UKIP leader Nigel Farage made explicit an insidious recasting of ideas of “immigration” and “integration,” emergent since the year 2000, which exhumed the ideas of Enoch Powell and threatened the status of even the most settled British minority ethnic populations – as has been seen in the Windrush scandal. Central to this has been the rejection of the postnational principle of non-discrimination by nationality, which had seen its fullest European expression in Britain during the 1990s and 2000s. The referendum on Brexit enabled an extraordinary democratic vote on the notion of “national” population and membership, in which “the People” might openly roll back the various diasporic, multinational, cosmopolitan, or human rights–based conceptions of global society which had taken root during those decades. This chapter unpacks the toxic cocktail that lays behind the forces propelling Boris Johnson to power. It also raises the question of whether Britain will provide a negative examplar to the rest of Europe on issues concerning the future of multiethnic societies.




This chapter is a version of a paper originally presented at St. Antony's College, Oxford, and then subsequently at University of Queensland, Brisbane, Loughborough University, UCLA, European University Institute, Florence, and University of Paris-Sorbonne III. I thank audiences at these events for their responses. It also draws upon the work of the ESRC “Governance after Brexit” project Northern Exposure: Race, Nation and Disaffection in “Ordinary” Towns and Cities after Brexit , for which I would like to thank fellow team members, outside partners, and colleagues at the University of Leeds.


Favell, A. (2020), "Crossing the Race Line: “No Polish, No Blacks, No Dogs” in Brexit Britain? or, the Great British Brexit Swindle", Duina, F. and Merand, F. (Ed.) Europe's Malaise (Research in Political Sociology, Vol. 27), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 103-130.



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