‘I don’t want to be a European’
The European Other in British cultural discourse
in The road to Brexit
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The British vote to leave the EU is frequently explained with reference to the effects of immigration, the rise of populism, the country’s imperial past, memories of the Second World War, its attachment to parliamentary democracy, and its special relationship with the United States. Relevant as all these issues are, to fully understand Brexit it is also necessary to pay attention to the strong cultural forces that have driven the vote to leave. To put it simply, many people in Britain are literally Eurosceptic in the sense that they do not feel European, but instead see Europe and ‘the Europeans’ as the Other. Chiefly drawing on literature, and connecting the discourse of traditional anti-Catholicism with contemporary anti-Europeanism, this chapter explores the origins, nature and consequences of British cultural exceptionalism.

The road to Brexit

A cultural perspective on British attitudes to Europe

Editor: Ina Habermann

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