British Culture Wars? Brexit and the Future Politics of Immigration and Ethnic Diversity

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Is British society truly divided enough to warrant the claim of a US-style “culture war”? We explore two identity issues at the fore of British politics: immigration and ethnic diversity. We argue that in the post-Brexit Britain, the less often acknowledged conflicts over diversity loom just as large in the electorate as immigration, which became less salient after the referendum. We show that the British are divided by racial resentment and colour-blind ideology associated with the US party politics, making the parallel with the American “culture wars”, with their roots in racial divides, clearer. We conclude that the incentive to play up racial divisions evident in American 2016 presidential election exists in Britain. Arguably, recent years have witnessed attempts at this from British politicians. While Brexit may help resolved some conflicts over immigration, it may also create an opportunity for politicians to mobilise other polarising identity divisions such as race.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Political Quarterly
Early online date25 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • racism
  • culture wars
  • immigration attitudes
  • British politics
  • Brexit


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