chapter  12
10 Pages

Brexit and English Identity

ByBen Wellings

This chapter argues that the political project to withdraw from the European Union combined material and political grievances with ideational narratives conditioned by the historical construction of English nationalism. By analysing Brexit with reference to a politicised English identity, the chapter seeks to take analysis of Brexit beyond the 'left-behind' thesis as the dominant explanation for the vote to leave the European Union in 2016 and to explore how Brexit was 'made in England'. At an ideational level beyond the structuring elements of the post-war British economy, Euroscepticism aligned with older narratives of English nationalism. This alignment with older traditions of English nationalism helped explain the persistent and embedded nature of resistance to European integration in England. The result of the 2016 referendum forced the inchoate ideology of the Anglosphere up the political agenda but linked it to Brexit rather than just the 'soft Euroscepticism' articulated by William Hague.