The Brexit vote is a victory for nationalist nativism; yet the reaction of Remainers is just as much one about identity, rather than lost economic opportunities.
Pro-EU demonstrations have taken place in London and other cities with people who carried the EU flag, wore it, and painted it on their skin. An LSE survey revealed young people cried at the thought of no longer belonging to the wider European family. They are not alone. Research shows that there is such thing as a European identity (Thomas Risse; Michael Bruter; Checkel & Katzenstein), which sits exists alongside national identity. This sense of belonging has been resilient even in the eurocrisis. Research in the UK found that ethnic minorities are more open to the EU, while white British respondents with a strong sense of national identity identified much less with Europe.
On Question Time, Michael Gove said that ‘tragedy’ was a word coming from English literature. It’s a word from ancient Greek theatre. Gove’s parochial nationalism forbids him to see the richness of shared European culture and values. The best moments in European history were not moments of national retreat, but of cultural exchange. The EU is not a nation-state in the making. The EU’s motto ‘unity in diversity’ cautions against the imposition of homogeneity, typical of the nation and an attempt at going beyond the 20th century paradigm of the nation-state. If we want a EU that is trusted by its citizens, we need our national media to become less parochial, and we need to have a European media making possible effective scrutiny of EU institutions and bringing the EU closer to its citizens. If we want the EU to live up to its values, need writers, TV and film-makers to tell our story.
In the aftermath of the historic British vote to leave the EU, openDemocracy is asking for our readers' thoughts on Brexit and what needs to happen next in 350 words. We've had an extraordinary response and you can read them all here.