‘Take Back Control’: Invaded Nation or Sovereign Nation?

  • Jonathan Charteris-BlackEmail author


In this chapter I propose that the pro-Leave campaign created group identities by framing its messages in the language of ‘War and Invasion’. Everything that unified the Leave campaign was represented as preparation for war: planning, building up resources and developing strategies for defence against an external threat. In this frame it was morally justified to defend the group by taking offensive action against whatever was construed as a threat. The War frame creates a climate of moral exigency because our intuitions tell us that anything is permitted if it can be construed as contributing to ‘victory’. I identify two rather different strategies that were employed by the Leave campaign. One is by focusing on the in-group values shared by those who believe in the nation state—its historical and geographical reality, established institutions and shared values all of which demand protection. I call this the ‘Sovereign Nation’ scenario and suggest that it was especially important to the middle class voter who might be anxious about perceived as racism because of their concerns about immigration. The second scenario works rather differently as it focuses on the dangers presented by an out-group: typified by any entity external to the nation, whether it is the EU Commission, migrants who are seeking asylum in the UK, or jihadi terrorists. Its moral reasoning argues that the nation demands defence. The moral reasoning of the ‘Invaded Nation’ scenario groups together all perceived enemies of the English nation into a category of threatening entities that are attacking and destroying established institutions, and shared values—whether it is democracy itself or the fishing industry. The ‘Invaded Nation’ scenario was one that was developed by organisations such as Leave.EU that particularly targeted their messages toward working class voters in the towns and cities—especially where there were heightened concerns regarding immigration. However, Remain rhetoric failed to distinguish between these two scenarios and often ended up using the Invaded Nation scenario, for example when its moral reasoning attacked the Leave campaign as uniformly racist. Ultimately, by engaging in a rhetorical slanging match involving metaphors from the frame of War and Invasion Remainers allowed the debate to be conducted on the cognitive psychological, and linguistic, ground rules that had been established by the Leave campaign.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries and EducationUniversity of the West of EnglandBristolUK

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