Brexit, Retrotopia and the perils of post-colonial delusions

Brexit shocked liberal elites across Europe, instigating a burgeoning new field of research. Brexit scholarship tends to puzzle over two questions: What happened? What will happen now? This article addresses the latter and builds upon scholarship that suggests that “identity” mattered as much as economics. Digging deeper into British identity, this essay borrows from social-psychology to analyse how temporal status comparisons contributed to Brexit. It argues how the peculiar qualities of British identity narrative make Eurosceptic complaints about sovereignty, Brussels and “control”, particularly salient to nationalists. In short, negative temporal status comparisons with Britain’s former self underpins its long-term Euroscepticism: When Brits learn they once “ruled the world”, the European Union’s practices of compromise compare poorly: Cooperation is easily presented as subordination. Brexit can thus be understood as a radical attempt to arrest Britain’s decline by setting sail for a future based on a nostalgic vision of the past.

Read the article in Global Affairs:
Brexit, Retrotopia and the perils of post-colonial delusions
By Paul Beaumont
Published 5. December 2018 - 14:46 - Updated 29. October 2020 - 8:18