Competing Discourses: The Losses and Gains of Brexit

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The European Union and its current member countries have become engulfed by a fear of economic and political instability amidst an unprecedented series of terrorist attacks on European cities claimed by ISIS, and unmanageable mass migration from the Middle East and the African continent. A fear so strong that it has shook the bedrock of established democracies and created a real concern that the European Union could begin to crumble. We see how globalism and international collaboration are confronted by rampant nationalism, bigotry and xenophobia, and how the authority of governments and mainstream political parties is challenged across the European board. These are developments which threaten the political order to which most of us have grown accustomed. The United Kingdom is in the middle of a long and difficult process of exiting from the European Union, and Turkey has effectively shut the entrance door to the community in its own face. Poland and Hungary have anti-immigrant nationalist governments that are at grave odds with the EU’s principles on liberal democracy, immigration and press freedom. In France, Germany and the Netherlands, far-right parties have gained unprecedented public support to establish them as serious contenders for future government. Against this backdrop, and with others (Wodak, 2015), we argue that a rhetoric of fear instead of hope has become dominant in Europe, and that the United Kingdom’s Brexit ordeal may provide a particularly telling insight into how fear serves as linchpin of a new discourse whose practitioners compete by discouraging or promoting self-sufficiency and exclusion. It is an insight about a political rhetoric that has taken hold of British politics and arguably may change the political culture of the European Union and its member states.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDiscourse & Society
Number of pages17
Publication statusIn preparation - 21 Mar 2019

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