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2020 ECPR Winter School in Methods & Techniques

‘If Britain Must Choose Between Europe and the Open Sea, She Must Always Choose the Open Sea.’ Europe as the Other in Brexit Britain

Simona Guerra
University of Leicester
Simona Guerra
University of Leicester

A divisive issue for British citizens and politicians, the EU (European Union) has always represented the Other in the British narrative (Daddow 2013) and a challenge for British political elites. Britain maintained the highest number of opt-outs (selective legislation) without (i) signing up to the Economic and Monetary Union (as Denmark); (ii) participating in the (border-free) Schengen Area (as Ireland); (iii) being a signatory of the Fundamental Charter of Human Rights (as Poland); and, (iv) by opting out on justice and home affair legislation in the Lisbon Treaty (as Denmark and Ireland). In the British press attitudes have adopted different degrees of Euroscepticism across the political spectrum (Eurosphere 2013), and could be identified in two main groups, resistance towards change and support towards the view of the ‘British “man in the street”’, concerned with globalization and sustaining a conservative Europragmatic (or Eurosceptic) attitude that supported the status quo. In this paper, the analysis seeks to study how the EU was viewed as the Other across the news and readers’ voices during the referendum campaign, specifically in The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Express. The selection is based on a homogenous overview of possible benevolent and negative news, accompanied by a mainstream tabloid press contribution. The study shows that British citizens felt, in their words, ‘bullied because of [their] political correctness’ and pointed to the European Commission and the EU as ‘the Establishment’ representing the great interests, ‘the ones which [went] against workers’ rights and British fishermen.’ Voting Leave represented respect towards true British values, the ‘core country’ as conceptualised by Taggart (2000) with the heartland, a romantic image of the past, of an ideal world, which possibly can exist again. The analysis adopts the psychological path of the study of identity formation, as presented by Neumann (1998), both looking at the Hogg and Abram’s (1988) study of self-categorization and the Lacanian interpretation of the emergence of the Other, and shows how Eurosceptic attitudes could be strengthened by the referendum narrative emerging, in this section of the analysis, by the media narrative, and further reinforce the idea of the EU as the Other.
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