Why has the EU failed in Britain?

21st November 2018

Why did the EU fail in Britain?

As Britain moves closer to exiting the EU, in SPIN we decided to examine some potential reasons why the EU failed in Britain. The first point that was raised was that European countries have historically been at war with one another that creates problems for integration. These conflicts may remind individuals of the differences between these countries that leads to ‘us’ and ‘them’ effects and therefore makes it harder to accept a European superordinate identity.

Another point that was raised was that the media in Britain have particularly painted the EU in a negative light, and that politicians promoted false promises about a post-EU Britain (e.g., spending on the NHS). These representations and misinformation about the EU may have particularly shaped attitudes towards leave. This may particularly be the case because it is thought that many do not understand well how the EU works, and therefore are more likely to accept media representations of the EU in a less critical way.

Moreover, it was noted that the leave campaign ran a successful campaign tapping into nationalistic zeal and fear. One big talking point by the leave campaign was the need to “take back control” and restore sovereignty. It sought to pose the EU as an ‘invading enemy’ which might heighten the sense of the EU posing as a symbolic threat to British values and traditions. Alongside this, there may also have been a strong sense of a realistic threat concerning the EU due to immigration and competition for jobs.

Finally, it was noted that contact with immigrants may also play an important role in determining whether individuals voted leave or remain. Contact generally has been shown as an effective way of improving attitudes and reducing intergroup anxiety. As London has a much more diverse population than in other parts of Britain, it is possible that this might be able to account for some differences in areas that heavily voted remain (such as London), and other areas of Britain where there is less diversity in the population.

Nicole Dady

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