Published on 5 December 2018
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‘England’ and ‘Britain’ further apart post-Brexit, says new book on English identity and institutions

As the ongoing Brexit debate brings up questions of constitution and identity in the UK, a volume published by the British Academy concludes that the traditional conflation of ‘England’ and ‘Britain’ is getting harder to maintain.

‘England’ and ‘Britain’ have been used almost interchangeably in discussions of political institutions of the UK, but the book concludes that this conflation has become harder to maintain in recent times, in part because of Brexit. Questions of national identity now have additional political weight, as English voters were more likely to have voted to leave the EU than the devolved nations, and within England, those identifying as English over British were more likely to vote Leave.

Governing England: English identity and institutions in a changing United Kingdom sheds greater light on questions of English identity and how it affects how people feel about separate English political institutions.

It brings together contributions from some of the UK’s leading political scientists and historians, including polling expert Sir John Curtice and former Cabinet Minister Professor John Denham.

The volume is edited by Professor Michael Kenny, Professor of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge, Akash Paun, Senior Fellow of the Institute for Government, and Professor Iain McLean, a Fellow of the British Academy and Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford.

It is the culmination of a two-year British Academy project exploring governance and identity in England.

Michael Kenny commented: “England is the only nation of the UK not to have had a national conversation about its place in the UK post-devolution. Our analysis shows that the English are not content with how they are presently governed, but neither is there consensus on the way forward. As the UK prepares to leave the EU, it is important that the academic community and politicians alike consider the governance of England, as well as the UK.”

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy.

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