From Brexit to the break-up of...England. Thinking in and beyond the nation.

Cochrane, Allan (2020). From Brexit to the break-up of...England. Thinking in and beyond the nation. In: Guderjan, Marcus; Mackay, Hugh and Stedman, Gesa eds. Contested Britain. Brexit, Austerity and Agency. Bristol: Bristol University Press, pp. 161–173.



One of the stories of Brexit has been the rediscovery of some sort of English nationalism. This chapter focuses on the troubled (re)emergence of ‘England’ as an imagined political territory. It analyses Brexit as a symptom of the political, economic and social geography of England, its uneven development in a spatial polity dominated by London and the South East of England.
The divisions within the UK were reflected in the voting patterns of the 2016 referendum and this may have significant implications for the UK’s future as a multinational state, and particularly for England as a central pillar of that state. The chapter explores some of the key factors that underlay the geographical patterns of the vote in England and its regions, highlighting the importance of uneven development in generating significant political outcomes and embedding social difference in place. It draws on geographical concepts to explore England’s changing position within the UK as a political and economic entity. And it reflects on some of the complexities of constructing an English national identity, at the same time as the political space of Englishness is becoming less rather than more certain – not only are most of England’s cities becoming increasingly multicultural and even cosmopolitan, but some of the older (now often post-) industrial areas are becoming increasingly marginalised.

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