A Discourse Analysis of the UK Referendum Campaign on EU Membership

In this IEP Research Paper the author Elisabeth Weißbecker used Ruth Wodak’s Discourse-Histo­rical Approach to analyse “The Facts of Life say Leave” speech by Michael Gove in order to examine how the case for Brexit was made in the referendum campaign. Weißbecker shows that his argumen­tation relies on numerous misre­pre­sen­ta­tions of the EU and the delegi­ti­mi­sation of the opposing ‘Remain’ camp by ridicule, in order to convey that leaving the EU is a promising prospect while staying is a danger. Gove’s argumen­tation benefits from a histo­ri­cally negative EU-discourse based on negative media coverage, politi­cians’ EU-bashing rhetoric, a cultural distance and a disdain for supra­na­tio­nalism, suggesting that the referendum result can be traced throughout the UK-EU relationship.