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1997 and 2016: Referenda, Brexit, and (Re-)bordering at the European Periphery

  • Bryonny Goodwin-Hawkins EMAIL logo and Rhys Dafydd Jones
From the journal New Global Studies


2016 is likely to be recalled – in Europe, at least – as a temporal bordering, after a majority in the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. The “Brexit” referendum result has been pinned on the rise of populist politics and the revenge of so-called “left behind” places. Regardless of reasons, the referendum left the UK with fraught politics and protracted negotiations, especially over how to re-border with a Europe that has held the dismantling of borders at the heart of its philosophical project. While Brexit has already become a byword, an earlier referendum on British borders has long slipped from international note. In 1997, a majority in Wales (one of the four constituent countries of the UK), voted for devolution from central government in Westminster. Like the Brexit referendum twenty years later, the majority in favor of devolution was slight, exposing uneasy fractures and internal cleavages as it opened fresh questions of governance and geography. By attending to a small country at the periphery of Europe, we seek to destabilize the assumption of shared markers of global bordering (1989, 2001), revealing instead the palimpsests of identity and territoriality across which re-made borders run “all over.”


Our research for this article was enabled by the IMAJINE project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement 726950. We thank our project colleagues Michael Woods and Rhys Alwyn Jones, editors Melissa Tandiwe Myambo and Pier Paolo Frassinelli, and two anonymous reviewers. The usual disclaimers apply.


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Published Online: 2019-12-06
Published in Print: 2019-11-18

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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