Panel 608: Emotions in Contemporary European Politics
Emotions in Contemporary European Politics
This panel presents a series of critical engagements with the role of emotions in contemporary European politics. Specifically, it draws on the ‘emotive turn’ in the EU Studies and IR literatures to problematize and explore the Brexit context and its ramifications for the European Union and the international sphere more broadly. In adopting this approach, the contributions take seriously historically overlooked social and psychological factors that lie beyond pure ‘cognition’ and ‘ideas’, such as feelings, sentiments, and affective attachments. Collectively, the interventions extend existing debates about the salience, utility and limits of tangible and imagined communities (of identification), such as ‘Global Britain’, the Anglosphere, the Commonwealth, and the EU itself.
Within this theme, the papers gather evidence to discuss emotive strategies and structures in the vote for, and subsequent contestation of Brexit, and in UK/EU economic policy-making and international diplomacy in the post-referendum environment. In utilising cases from the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, and other Commonwealth countries, the presentations provide a rich empirical basis for understanding recent developments in European integration and external relations. These cases enable the panel to illuminate and reflect on the past and present importance of emotions in diverse areas of European political life, and to consider future directions in European politics and EU Studies.
Presentations of the Symposium
Limits of Emotion in International Trade: Global Britain and the Commonwealth
This paper offers a critical engagement with notions that the legitimacy of economic policy proposals relies on ‘emotive’ components that draw on underlying societal values. This logic has been applied in order to understand the appeal within the UK of the British Government’s ‘Global Britain’ policy agenda. The resonance of Global Britain, however, has been more limited amongst purported beneficiaries of the policy outside the UK – that is, non-EU countries with which Britain seeks to develop closer economic ties and in particular members of the Commonwealth. This article investigates why this is so, and thereby considers the impact of ‘emotive’ discourse on international politics. Specifically, the paper explores three strands of the Global Britain discourse: (1) colonial histories; (2) economic relations between European states and their former colonies; (3) experiences of EU protectionism. This analysis reveals that elements of Global Europe’s ‘emotive’ appeal are at odds with the values and sensitivities that underpin many Commonwealth countries’ engagement with global trade. This in turn exposes a paradox in the Global Britain discourse: while its ostensible aim is to forge a globalist agenda, its emotive appeal is based on a set of narrow understandings and sensibilities that are not widely shared beyond (parts of) the UK populace and therefore serve to limit its resonance beyond Britain. The paper concludes that while emotive appeals may play a positive role in international diplomacy, in order to do so they must draw on broadly shared values, sensitivities and understandings of the past.
Ireland, the EU and New Zealand: Emotion and Navigating a post-Brexit world
In 2018, diplomatic relations between The Republic of Ireland and New Zealand entered a new phase with the opening of new embassies in Dublin and Wellington. In light of this new intensification, this paper presents an analysis of how Ireland and the Irish are perceived in New Zealand society, investigating whether common stereotypes about Ireland persist in New Zealand or if new narratives are being formed based on modern Irish values. The findings of the research will be useful for future relations and communications between the two countries.
This paper is guided by the hypothesis is that even though New Zealanders are predominantly descended from the British Isles (the majority from England); today they are more likely to feel an emotional attachment to Ireland than the other nations of the United Kingdom. While emotions are now understood as an important part of understanding foreign policy, the impact of emotions has tended to be neglected in the literature (Bleiker and Hutchison 2014). Yet New Zealand’s emotional attachment towards Ireland has not only important implications for the bilateral relations between the two countries, but also New Zealand’s future relationship with the European Union post-Brexit -- Ireland has been recognised by New Zealand as an important new gateway into Europe.
Pro-EU Activists during Brexit: Challenging the Masculine Eurosceptic Tradition at the Grassroots Level
The UK has been considered the ‘least European’ member state, with UK citizens generally reporting low levels of European identity. In their justification of the UK’s membership of the EU/EEC, UK elites have primarily rested on economic arguments that eschewed the emotional arguments resting on common European values or identity common in other, especially founding member states. Certainly, the peace narrative of European integration has remained marginal in UK political discourse throughout its 45-year membership. Yet, this does not imply the absence of such emotional ties to the European project. Indeed, pro—European organisations such as European Movement have been active in the UK since the early post-war period. As we have shown in our survey of anti-Brexit protesters, participants have experienced a deep emotional reaction to the prospect of leaving the EU, feeling a loss of a ‘core’ or ‘essential’ identity (Braendle et al., 2018). This paper interrogates the emotional connection to the EU further through in-depth interviews with anti-Brexit grassroots activists and protesters. The paper will analyse their sense of loss in relation to their British and European identities during Brexit, particularly in light of the uncertainty surrounding their rights and status as EU citizens and with regards to a feeling that Britain has ‘changed’ beyond recognition. This research will thus shed light on the way in which “Remainers” experience an emotional connection to the European project at a time of crisis for the UK’s place in Europe.