What is the Project about?

Claims about interference in British food played a significant part in constructing popular myths represented in the press and television which contributed to the anti-EU agitation culminating in the UK’s withdrawal from the EU following the June 2016 referendum. These myths ranged from claims that the use of avoirdupois weights is a right to be defended, and that the EU was determined to eliminate British sausages and enforce criteria about such things as the shape of bananas, to arguments that the UK contribution to the Common Agricultural Policy was subsidising the creation of ‘butter mountains’ and ‘wine lakes’. In addition to positioning the EU and food associated with European cuisines as ‘them’, such myths built on and sustained the revival of the myths of a British ‘us’ which fused together ideas about the relations between diet, morality, politics and economy.

In the light of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and the negotiations that followed and are continuing, this research project investigates how existing myths were mobilized and how new myths were produced in an attempt to create and intensify identification with British national identity and distance from the European Union in the months prior to the June 2016 referendum.

The aim of this research is to examine the development of such myths between 1973 when UK enter EU and until 2020, when it left. The core focus of the research is on newspaper reporting and commentaries relevant to food, on subjects such as the agricultural economy and labour force, food processing and supply chains, standards and regulations as food became topical as a point of anchorage of the national self. Given that such issues have previously been contentious in relation to EU policies, it is likely that they will remain so. Therefore, the research aims to pursue the question of the role that food myths play in UK media representations that seek to inform,
persuade and entertain the public.

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