The 2016 Brexit referendum vote was the culmination of a process dating back at least a decade, during which cross-national ties within the European Union that had once seemed unassailable came to be called into question. European solidarity did not appear particularly strong during the handling of the global financial crisis or the emerging refugee/migration crisis. In many countries, support for European integration seemed more instrumental than a matter of belief. The British, in particular, had always been seen as (and had seen themselves as) “reluctant Europeans”.
We examine the British media’s coverage of the European Union in the lead-up to the Brexit referendum. One working paper investigates how the issue of immigration came to colour the referendum campaign so strongly, even though the most politically salient immigration challenges were those on which Britain retained full national control. Another working paper ranks other EU member states by the average tone of references in the British press, providing new insights into which EU member states the British feel closest to.
Does solidarity mean different things to different people? We aim to identify the meaning of solidarity in different contexts by looking at social media references to solidarity alongside appeals to solidarity by public figures such as politicians. Using topic models to identify topics associated with soldarity, we establish variation in these topics both over time and across countries.