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One of us was in Germany on the day the results of the UK referendum on membership of the EU was announced. A German colleague pointed out, somewhat ominously, and to a bemused, and in some cases dismayed, interdisciplinary and international audience: 'But …. we all have our Brexits'.
Is this true? Are the compulsions to leave the EU, and the conditions which delivered the result of the referendum in the UK, shared across Europe? And what of the yearning to remain or to join? In the intervening three years, British politics has been turned inside out, with one parliamentary crisis after another and a sense that, amongst the general population, identities of 'remainer' and 'leaver', that cross 'traditional' party political lines, have hardened. The UK referendum has been analysed, amongst other things, as a protest: protest against the Cameron government, policies of austerity, successive and cumulative 'neoliberal' reforms to work and welfare since the 1970s, the hegemony of the 'liberal, cosmopolitan elite', and more. Joined by relatively well-healed, conservative Eurosceptics who have been agitating for 'sovereignty' since the 1970s, and the far left whose vision of a radical socialist future necessitates the 'freedom' to forge different and alternative alliances, Brexit continues to reveal profound divisions in the body politic. The roundtable will draw on ethnographic examples from across Europe that illuminate and interrogate the contemporary relationship between the EU (as both institution and concept) and the people within and at its borders.
Susana Narotzky (Universitat de Barcelona)