England, Englishness and Brexit

Ailsa Henderson*, Charlie Jeffery, Robert Lineira, Roger Scully, Daniel Wincott, Richard Wyn Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the 1975 referendum England provided the strongest support for European integration, with a much smaller margin for membership in Scotland and Northern Ireland. By 2015 the rank order of 'national' attitudes to European integration had reversed. Now, England is the UK's most eurosceptic nation and may vote 'Leave', while Scotland seems set to generate a clear margin for 'Remain'. The UK as a whole is a Brexit marginal. To understand the campaign, we need to make sense of the dynamics of public attitudes in each nation. We take an 'archaeological' approach to a limited evidence-base, to trace the development of attitudes to Europe in England since 1975. We find evidence of a link between English nationalism and euroscepticism. Whatever the result in 2016, contrasting outcomes in England and Scotland will exacerbate tensions in the UK's territorial constitution and could lead to the break-up of Britain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-199
Number of pages13
JournalPolitical Quarterly
Issue number2
Early online date25 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2016


  • England
  • Englishness
  • nationalism
  • euroscepticism
  • Brexit
  • referendum


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