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'Love Europe, Hate the EU': Place and Culture versus Institutions in the New Political Geography of Europe

Cleavages
European Politics
European Union
Institutions
International Relations
Brexit
Andrew Glencross
Aston University
Andrew Glencross
Aston University

Abstract

This paper analyses the genealogy of the expression “love Europe, hate the EU” that is taken as a symbol of the tension inherent in the emerging political geography of Europe. Closely associated with the Brexit movement, but also popular among other movements opposing the EU (Caiani and Guerra, 2017), this catchphrase is best understood as the latest stage in the contestation over the political meaning of Europe (den Boer 1993). It serves as rallying call to turn back the clock on institutionalized cooperation in order to privilege the nation-state in a manner reminiscent of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century conceptions of the “natural republic of Europe” (Deudney 2008). This concept meant that the territorial units into which Europe was divided produced a sort of republican order, whereby no single state dominated. However, this paper demonstrates that the desire to do away with a rules-based institutional order rests on a deliberately ahistorical reading of European inter-state relations (Kissinger, 1957; Mazower, 1998). By privileging a cultural and idealized understanding of Europe as a community of nation-states free to pursue voluntary association free of sovereignty constraints, this critique of EU institutionalization rejects solidarity and affects a specious internationalism. Rather, disparate cries for less restrictive forms of association that protect place or national culture are a cloak for interests opposed to the EU order. This emerging cleavage in Europe’s political geography suggests that European integration after Brexit needs to focus on demonstrating the value of institutionalized cooperation per se as much as the cultural symbolism of supranationalism (cf. McNamara, 2015).