This publication has come out of a conference the British Academy organised on Friday 4 November 2016 on European Union and Disunion: What has held Europeans together and what is dividing them? The conference brought together academics, policymakers, officials, practitioners and members of the public, some of whom are represented in the following contributions.
Europe is increasingly seen as a space of intrusion, instability, uncertainty with an anxiety undermining confidence in the ideas and institutions of European belonging. Europe has lost its lustre as a place of progress, security and solidarity. It may return in a kinder form when the age of insecurity passes, or if it can be shown to be the answer to fear. The contributions in this publication engage with the tropes of European belonging, past and present, and with the work done by narratives of union and disunion. Narratives are, and have always been, a touchstone of practices of inclusion or division and judgements of the familiar and strange. The Brexit outcome amply confirms this: the ‘leave’ campaign played on affects of nation, its boundaries, and its outsides to great effect, certainly more so than the ‘remain’ campaign, which focused on the colder facts of costs and benefits of Europe. Looking ahead, sentiments of belonging may turn out to be key for managing our uncertain and fearful age, when the propositions of future society invariably filter through them, and all the more so when instituted precepts of society and its order falter.