Technocratic reason in hard times: The mobilisation of economic knowledge and the discursive politics of Brexit

Ben Clift*, Ben Rosamond

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In the context of the debate surrounding and following the Brexit referendum in June 2016, credentialed economic expertise did not enjoy a privileged position within the political and policy debate. Using the contrasting cases of the Office for Budget Responsibility and Economists for Brexit/Free Trade, this paper explores the mobilisation of economic expertise within the discursive politics of Brexit under conditions of pervasive radical uncertainty. It argues that politicisation is an important factor in side-lining technocratic influence over policy choice, but that the particular type of politicisation in play (plebiscitary) meant that the input of technocratic experts was downgraded. It is a politics conducted in another register to the reasoned, evidence-based vernacular of accredited experts and the policy discourses that they work with and through. We also argue that the basic unknowability of the post-Brexit economy further impaired expert input. These limitations were acknowledged by accredited experts themselves, reducing their traction within the policy debate. This unknowability was exploited by forms of counter-expertise mobilised by the Leave campaign. The radical uncertainties of Brexit allowed in heterodox assumptions and approaches to compete on a level playing field with an approximation of what could be presented as prudent best practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalNew Political Economy
Early online date11 Jun 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Jun 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Brexit
  • economists
  • technocracy
  • uncertainty
  • depoliticisation


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