“Immigration, that’s what everyone’s thinking about …”
The 2016 British EU referendum seen in the eyes of the beholder
This article examines the 2016 British EU referendum and the domestic debates through citizens’ voices in the media, specifically on the emotions and narratives, on The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Express, the week before the referendum. British citizens felt, in their words, “bullied because of [their] political correctness” and pointed their anger and dissatisfaction against the EU (and Merkel’s) “obsession for open borders”. The analysis underlines that these emotions and narratives, combining immigration and sovereignty, have remained embedded in the post-Brexit days, and go back not just to Billig’s banal nationalism (1995), but show that voting Leave represented respect towards true British values, the “core country” as conceptualised by Taggart (2000). Powellism (Hampshire 2018) and Wright’s “encroanchment” of Englishness (2017), and the analysis on the immigration narrative explain how anti-immigration and sovereignty discourse is persisting and is influencing the social and political relation of Britain with Europe.