In This Review

Brexitland: Identity, Diversity, and the Reshaping of British Politics
Brexitland: Identity, Diversity, and the Reshaping of British Politics
By Maria Sobolewska and Robert Ford
Cambridge University Press, 2020, 408 pp.

In the past half decade, the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union has produced an enormous outpouring of scholarship not just on the Brexit vote itself but also on British far-right politics and Euroskepticism. This book fills in a critical part of the story. Brexit has deep roots in two 50-year-long demographic transformations in the United Kingdom: one that changed a society in which foreign-born (and nonwhite) people were rare to one in which they are common, and another that changed a society in which university-educated people composed a single-digit minority to one in which they total roughly half of all young people. These shifts changed British attitudes toward race and ethnicity, creating a political system divided over identity politics. Yet demographics alone do not explain Brexit: the odd incentives created by the United Kingdom’s unique electoral system, the inability of the Labour Party to adjust to the new circumstances, the crosscutting imperatives of regional politics, and the traditional British imperial mindset all played important roles as well, and they help explain why no other countries have followed the United Kingdom out of the EU.