I’ve just come across a recent article by Steven Kettell and Peter Kerr on the use of religious discourses in the context of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. I’ll be talking about this paper with my religious langauge students this morning, since we are discussing this image from my recent book.
Here are a few quotes from Kettell and Kerr’s paper, which you can also read here:
populist rhetoric has ‘an elective affinity with certain religious ideas or tropes’ (such as apocalyptic threats, the idea of a unique people and the need for salvation) and ‘religion is now playing an important role in the new populisms’. Or, as Mao (2017) puts it: ‘One of the perplexing features of populist movements and ideologies is that, although they often unfold in a secular milieu, they have scarcely disguised religious connotations’.
These religious dimensions to Brexit were operationalised through three key discourses: the claim that the British people had an ‘exceptional’ status within Europe, a view of the EU as a nefarious threat to this status, and an insistence that the sacred ‘will of the people’ expressed in the referendum had to be obeyed. These discourses combined to frame Brexit as the road to a form of national salvation and historic destiny for the UK, while effectively placing it beyond the reach of intellectual, rational contestation.