EU enlargement and the freedom of movement
Imagined communities in the Conservative Party’s discourse on Europe (1997– 2016)
in The road to Brexit
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The freedom of movement within the EU continues to be a hotly contested topic in British politics. This chapter argues that this debate is closely connected to the enlargement of the European Union – most notably the ‘Eastern enlargement’ in 2004. The author explores how the accession of ten new members was discussed by Conservative Party leaders in Parliament in the years preceding the Brexit referendum, asking if EU member states and their citizens were framed as part of a new ‘imagined community’ (Benedict Anderson), or as culturally different outsiders. The analysis reveals that while the support for EU enlargement endured throughout the researched years, Tory party leaders, even when in opposition, exclusively emphasised the economic benefits of enlargement for Britain. This only changed in 2011 when UKIP had successfully put immigration on the agenda. Subsequently, a major shift occurred from highlighting benefits to the national interest to calls for stricter border control and active discouragement of migration.

The road to Brexit

A cultural perspective on British attitudes to Europe

Editor: Ina Habermann

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