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

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  • University of Lincoln


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 underresearched 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. The authors 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, they 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. The authors 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. They further explore how inequalities of nation, class, race and gender make EU citizens unequally positioned to access the promises of this narrative. Overall, they argue 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
JournalCurrent Sociology
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2019


  • Brexit, inequality, Europe, migration, methodological nationalism, intra-European inequalities, meritocracy