'Brexit' in Transnational Perspective: an Analysis of Newspapers in France, Germany and the Netherlands

Patrick Bijsmans, Charlotte Galpin, Benjamin Leruth

Since David Cameron's January 2013 European Union (EU) speech at Bloomberg, the possibility of a British exit ('Brexit') from the European Union has been an issue looming in the background of many ongoing EU debates and events. At the same time criticism and even rejection of European integration is no longer confined to a few Member States, but has spread across the Europe. From the Dutch and French 'no' to the European Constitution, to the rise of the Alternative für Deutschland in Germany, Euroscepticism has increasingly become a mainstream phenomenon.This paper looks into how the Brexit debate is perceived in the public spheres of three of Britain's closest partners. Based on analysis of newspaper articles in France, Germany and the Netherlands we ask to what extent the Brexit debate has a transnational dimension. Is there a shared understanding of Britain's precarious position towards the EU? To what extent does the debate about Britain's future relationship with the EU reflect similar needs and worries in other Members States? Alternatively, does the Brexit debate serve to create a sense of unity amongst other EU member states faced with British exceptionalism? The analysis concentrates on key events in the Brexit debate, starting from Cameron's aforementioned speech and concluding with the outcome of the negotiations between the EU and the UK.We combine insights from Euroscepticism research with those of public sphere research, something that has not been done much before. As such the paper contributes to the ongoing debate on Euroscepticism and related calls for a focus that extends beyond political parties and public opinion. Simultaneously, it also contributes to existing research on the possible contribution of national public spheres to European democracy.

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