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Re-framing free movement in the countdown to Brexit? Shifting UK press portrayals of EU migrants in the wake of the referendum.

Morrison, James

Authors

James Morrison



Abstract

This article argues that long-standing press portrayals of economic migrants as threats to Britain’s economic wellbeing underwent a marked turn immediately after the 2016 ‘Brexit’ referendum. Following an intense campaign during which most national newspapers problematised European Union free movement, the month after the vote saw even ‘Euro-sceptic’ titles shift towards emphasising the economic costs of ending it. Within six months, however, discourses framing migrants as ‘invaders’ and/or ‘exploiters’ resurfaced. The article conceptualises the immediate post-referendum period as one of discursive aftershock, as key actors struggled to absorb the outcome and newspapers accustomed to years of spoon-feeding with simplistic pro- and anti-European Union rhetoric scrambled to find fresh sources of newsworthy conflict in a ‘post-war’ climate. In so doing, it contributes to our understanding of the multidirectional complexity of the agenda-setting process, by showing how shifts in the nature of public debate can help re-frame the narrative preoccupations of the media.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Aug 1, 2019
Journal The British Journal of Politics and International Relations
Print ISSN 1369-1481
Electronic ISSN 1467-856X
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 21
Issue 3
Pages 594-611
Institution Citation MORRISON, J. 2019. Re-framing free movement in the countdown to Brexit? Shifting UK press portrayals of EU migrants in the wake of the referendum. British journal of politics and international relations [online], 21(3), pages 594-611. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1177/1369148119851385
DOI https://doi.org/10.1177/1369148119851385
Keywords Brexit; Discourse; Framing; Free movement; Migrants; Newspapers

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