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Gendering the European Parliament

Politicisizing EU Citizenship: Online Mobilisation During Brexit

European Union
Social Media
Political Engagement
Charlotte Galpin
University of Birmingham
Charlotte Galpin
University of Birmingham
Hans-Jörg Trenz
University of Copenhagen
Verena Brändle
University of Copenhagen

Immediately following the referendum, a number of new grassroots pro- and anti-Brexit campaigns emerged on social media (for example, ‘The 48 and Beyond’ to represent those who voted Remain). In the case of anti-Brexit groups, this mobilisation has also spread offline, with campaign groups emerging in towns across the UK, and large pro-EU marches taking place in London and Manchester. What becomes clear from this mobilisation is that Brexit raises crucial questions about political representation and the boundaries of the community in which these claims are raised. To explore these questions, we draw on quantitative and qualitative analysis of pro- and anti-Brexit Facebook campaigns following the referendum. Firstly, the paper examines the central issues raised and the claims addressed to political actors by the different groups, shedding light on how citizens relate to and feel represented by national and EU political authorities. Secondly, the type and geographical scope of content shared (e.g. mainstream or alternative media, or user-generated content) is examined as an indicator for the concerns expressed by citizens. Lastly, we analyse how the rights of EU citizenship are contested by paying particular attention to debates about, for example, the rights of EU nationals to access welfare, public spending on healthcare, housing and education, and political representation surrounding the trigger of Article 50. We argue that online contestations by Facebook campaigns during Brexit can be understood as ‘acts of citizenship’ through which the question of personal and collective belonging to Europe and the nation-state are negotiated.
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