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Durham University

Research & business

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Publication details for Dr Gordon MacLeod

MacLeod, G. & Jones, M. (2018). Explaining ‘Brexit capital’ uneven development and the austerity state. Space and Polity 22(2): 111-136.

Author(s) from Durham


The precise moment that triggered the EU referendum had its roots in the Europhobia that lurked within the soul of the Conservative Party. It has been deeply perturbing to witness such Europhobia played out in the form of an internal party political melodrama while the scandalous socio-economic fissures that fed the Brexit insurgence appeared to represent a mere side-show. Taking inspiration from recent work on Brexit as a critical conjuncture, this paper examines how part of this insurgence emerged as a ‘revolt of the regions’ led by communities that had endured sustained economic dispossession of public goods and services further exacerbated by the steadfast commitment by Conservative-led governments to a politics of austerity. In then sharpening the focus on to Stoke-on-Trent – baptized ‘Capital of Brexit’ in light of its status as the city with the highest Leave majority – the paper reveals deep-seated political disaffection as people railed against prolonged economic abandonment and social injustice. It further identifies how at the very heart of the Brexit conjuncture was a growing disconnect between citizens and the institutions of government, what amounts to a gradual exhaustion of consent for the neoliberal political economic mainstream. It has also resulted in a highly discordant state that is struggling to balance the process of extricating the UK from the EU with the management of a society that is now more imbalanced than at any time in living memory.