Unequal Europe, unequal Brexit: how intra-European inequalities shape the unfolding and framing of Brexit

Lorenza Antonucci, Simone Varriale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
636 Downloads (Pure)


This article argues that focusing on intra-European inequalities is key to a deeper understanding of the Brexit process, as the impacts of the Brexit process on core–periphery inequalities within Europe and on intra-European migrations remain under-researched topics. Focusing on sociology, this article provides a critical analysis of the burgeoning literature on Brexit, highlighting the centrality of methodological nationalism and its critique by critical race scholars. We expand the latter’s critique, providing a different solution to the national framing of the debate. Drawing on world-system theory and post-Bourdieusian social theory, we explore the role that Britain played in legitimising core–periphery inequalities in Europe and social hierarchies between West and East, and North and South, European populations. We highlight the UK’s influence over EU supranational policies and its association, among non-UK EU citizens, with a ‘meritocracy narrative’ that shapes patterns and meanings of intra-European migration. We further explore how inequalities of nation, class, race and gender make EU citizens unequally positioned to access the promises of this narrative. Overall, the article argues that a focus on intra-European inequalities is essential to an understanding of how Britain contributed to the unequal Europe it aims to leave, and how EU citizens’ unequal migrations make Brexit an asymmetrical process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-59
Number of pages19
JournalCurrent Sociology
Issue number1
Early online date13 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Brexit
  • EU migrants
  • Europe
  • core-periphery
  • inequality
  • intra-European inequalities
  • methodological nationalism
  • methodological whiteness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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