Brexit: Territorial Politics, Territorial Processes and Narratives of Territorial Identities

Clifford Hague*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The 2016 vote for the UK to leave the EU is analysed by focusing on the political and institutional dimensions of territorial cohesion. The 2007/8 financial and economic crisis enabled the introduction of austerity, reinforcing territorial inequalities created by agglomeration effects. In the vote, cities generally showed majorities for “Remain”, while smaller towns and rural regions favoured “Leave”. However, Scotland and Northern Ireland had Remain majorities, indicating that urban/rural differences do not fully explain the voting patterns. So a number of geographical factors, at and below the level of the nation state, need to be understood to explain Brexit. The paper analyses the narratives of territorial identity used by the Leave campaign. These include the framing of concerns with migration, national identities within the UK, and territorial identities of the UK and the EU itself. The contested nature of territory is critical for the European project: research and policy need to focus on the political economy of territorial cohesion.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGéocarrefour : revue de géographie de Lyon
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2020


  • Brexit
  • English nationalism
  • European Union
  • Territorial cohesion
  • Territorial identity
  • Territorial politics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Urban Studies


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