Which nation is this? Brexit and the not-so-United Kingdom

Clarke, John (2021). Which nation is this? Brexit and the not-so-United Kingdom. In: Cörüt, İlker and Jongerden, Joost eds. Beyond Nationalism and the Nation-State: Radical Approaches to Nation. Routledge, pp. 98–116.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003008842-7


This chapter explores Brexit as a moment of nationalist, authoritarian populism - an instance of what Maskovsky and Bjork-James (2019) call “angry politics”. The referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union in 2016 has been explained in a variety of ways as the revolt of those “left behind” by neoliberal globalization; a politics of rage amongst those abandoned by a European cosmopolitan political elite; or the impassioned resurgence of a nation seeking to “take back control” from a European superstate. The contingently assembled nature of the nation has been made more visible by the stresses and strains surrounding Brexit, but before discussing those in more detail, it is worth tracing the elements that are brought together in the United Kingdom. England is the largest of the four elements of the United Kingdom assemblage and it acts as the core of the United Kingdom, pulling the elements together under Westminster/London/English domination.

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