EU articulated in the Brexit Debate

Student thesis: Master Thesis and HD Thesis

  • Marie Hogreffe Amlund Rasmussen
On the June the 23 2016 the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and became the first country to do so. The referendum question was “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” (, 2016). The leave side won with 51,9% of the vote while 48,1% voted remain.
The focus of this thesis is to examine in what way the European Union is articulated in regards to the United Kingdom in the referendum debate, both explicit and implicit, with a focus on national identity by analysing the both the media debate and the parliamentary debates up to the referendum 23 June 2016. The research questions are: How are the different ‘we/us’ categories defined? What is the focus of the narratives of these categories? To what extent did sovereignty play a role in the debate?
Ole Wævers, Monstserrat Guibernau, Anthony D. Smith, Benedict Anderson and Anthony Giddens along with Robert M. Entman make up the theoretical framework. Qualitative Content Analysis is the main method of analysis and structured the analysis along with framing theory.
Three main themes found by QCA are Economy, Migration and Free-movement and Sovereignty
The overall findings were that the remain side wanted stay in the European Union so they would continue to be part of the Single Market, as that is their ideal relationship symbol. EU reformed and with the Single Market are cornerstones in Britain future prosperity. In the overall dominant economic frame the UK relates to the EU because of concrete economic interest, the EU have something the British need namely access to the European consumer.
A collective ‘we/us’ including both the UK and the EU never gains salience, beyond that what is expressed in a trade relationship. The ‘we/us’ remain a constellation of ‘us, Britain’ and ‘us, Britain but with an articulated Scottish and/or Irish presence’. Economic gain in constantly weight against loss of sovereignty. The EU’s perceived democratic deficit, in the optic of the remain, is in large part due to the lack of transparency, and Britain should take the role of leader by example to reform the EU. The EU is seen as vital to the creation of jobs and foreign investment in the UK.
The Leave side sees the EU’s bureaucracy as a symbol of its undemocratic ways and as a waste of money. The Leave side also wanted to continue to have access to the Single Market but did not care for a relationship beyond a trade agreement.
Publication date2 Jan 2019
ID: 292649276