Document Type

Honors Project


British voters have decided to withdraw membership from the European Union (EU). By considering the outcome of Brexit as a moment in time when British voters declared, “this is who we are,” this project asks: What role did identity play in the Brexit vote? What does Brexit tell us about how expressions of identity have been affected by transformations of the state? An internal conflict over what it means to be British has, in part, driven the United Kingdom to leave the EU. Neither British Euroscepticism nor competing notions of Britishness are new. Rather, anxiety over the ability to dictate what Britishness is, and who can be British came to a point of crisis on June 23, 2016. My analysis demonstrates that this crisis was provoked by three points of tension: (1) shifts of sovereignty from member states to the EU, (2) the rise of immigration, and (3) resentment among the British working-class. Ultimately, these three issues contributed to the victory of the New Right vision of identity and the British voters’ decision to leave the EU. Further, I suggest that Brexit raises concerns about the consequences of exclusionary identity politics, as national identity seems to have become a mechanism through which our globalizing world is rejected, and familiarity and homogeneity are favored over difference.



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