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The (re)definition of national identity through security policies from 2016 onwards. A Comparative study of governmental discourse between France and the UK

Annaëlle PRUGNEAU
p. 119-137

Résumé

While some argue that a growing global mobility as well as international norms and cooperation led to weakened national citizenship and identity, this paper analyses the way the French and British governments, from 2015 onwards, “renationalised” their approach to citizenship and the national community, in an attempt to respond to different crises, such as Brexit or terrorist attacks. It offers a comparison in the way France’s and Britain’s governments interpret, mobilise and respond to identity divides, -through the analysis of their discourse and policies on citizenship, security and the fight against extremism. This study also looks at the purposes and the consequences of this phenomenon of “renationalisation” in governmental discourse and security policies.

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Introduction

  • 1 Emmanuel Macron, in Laureline Dupont, « Entretien Événement. Ce que Macron n'a jamais dit des Franç (...)
  • 2 Sajid Javid, “Confronting Extremism Together”, Coin Street Community Centre, London, 19 July 2019.
  • 3 Christian Joppke spoke of the “inevitable lightening of citizenship”, considering the impact of glo (...)
  • 4 Maria Sobolewska and Robert Anthony Ford, Brexitland: identity, diversity and the reshaping of Brit (...)

1In December 2020, in an interview given to a French newspaper in which he called for a “new patriotism”, Emmanuel Macron, declared that he had “contributed to revealing a lot of divisions1”. In the same way, when presenting the governmental strategy concerning extremism in 2019, Sajid Javid, then Home Secretary, praised Theresa May for the huge progress that had been made in this domain, but added that “now the fault lines dividing our society have splintered and spread”2. In both countries, the divides are commonly associated with identities, and with questions over the “national fabric”, even if France and the UK have had different approaches concerning national identity and integration. This echoes more general debates over the decline of national membership or the end of strong national identities, the “lightening” of national citizenship, as explained by the sociologist, C. Joppke3, and, at the same time, the rise of identity divides, due to several factors including socio-demographic changes these past decades4. Identity divides seem indeed to have been a structuring pattern in political discourse these past few years, in Britain but also in France, when commentators or politicians reflect on the state of politics.

  • 5 Émilien Fargues, « The revival of citizenship deprivation in France and the UK as an instance of ci (...)

2This article analyses the way successive British governments (from 2016 onwards) have responded to and mobilised identity divides, especially in the context of Brexit but also after terrorist attacks. This analysis will offer a comparison with French debates happening during the same period over national identity and security (in a post-terror-attack context). This particular context revolving around security reveals the way national identity has been presented and redefined by the governments during the period. I argue, following the political scientist E. Fargues, that debates over national identity, and more specifically about nationality in the case of deprivation of citizenship, illustrate an attempt by government to “take back control” over the definition of the national community (through the “renationalisation” of citizenship and identity)5. The aim of the study is, thus, to analyse the discourse around nationality and security after Brexit, and see to what extent the phenomenon of “renationalisation” of identity, seen through security policies and debates over the deprivation of citizenship, is similar in France and the UK. “Renationalisation” can be understood here as the effort by states to reassert their prerogative in defining who is and who is not a member of the national community, beyond the mere legal condition associated with citizenship or nationality.

  • 6 Jules Lepoutre, « Le bannissement des nationaux : Comparaison (France-Royaume-Uni) au regard de la (...)

3If Brexit and terror attacks refer to very different events and implications, I argue that it is worth comparing the debates and policies concerning the national community in these two contexts, as they happened in roughly the same period, they both represent a form of rupture, and both Britain and France experienced terror attacks. Moreover, despite some structural differences, both countries have had very similar approaches to the fight against terrorism, and are subject, despite Brexit, to the same international legal framework6. However, if the tools to respond to identity divides, or to reinforce the national sense of belonging, seem quite close, they might vary in degree.

  • 7 Maria Sobolewska and Robert Anthony Ford, Brexitland: identity, diversity and the reshaping of Brit (...)

4To differ slightly from the idea developed in depth by M. Sobolewska and R. Ford7 (that Brexit revealed conflicts of identity among the electorate, which existed not only in the UK but also in France), I argue that governments participated in the interpretation through the “identity politics” lens of other divides appearing in society (such as institutional and socio-economic ones). By discussing the conditions to access citizenship and nationality, by associating national identity with security issues, or by insisting on a more culturally homogenous national identity, the French and British governments seem to offer a partial response and participate in the construction of the crises and divides they face.

5This study will focus on British and French governmental speeches concerning national identity, and insist more specifically on the debates over the deprivation of citizenship and on the policies against extremism, which entail a particular definition of national identity.

6The first part of this article challenges the idea of a “lightening” of national identities, by focusing on the particular context in which a renewed interest in national identity seems to appear at the governmental level. It is argued in a second part that this phenomenon of “renationalisation” is mostly visible in discourse and policies surrounding security, and reveals the strategies used by the governments to respond to, or, to some extent, to mobilise identity divides.

1. Challenging the idea of “lightened” national identities

1.1 A revival of national identity through citizenship?

  • 8 Definition found in Britannica Dictionary, available online the 20th June 2023: https://www.britann (...)
  • 9 Christian Joppke, 2010, art. cit.
  • 10 Christian Joppke, « The instrumental turn of citizenship », Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies(...)
  • 11 Ibid. p.870.
  • 12 For example: Boris Johnson, Speech on the EU referendum, London, 9 May 2016: “There is simply no co (...)

7If we look at the common definition of citizen, what appears straight away is the legal dimension of the word: “a person who legally belongs to a country and has the rights and protection of that country”8. Indeed, citizenship is associated with the legal status of having some unconditional rights (such as the entry to one’s own country) recognised by the state. It overlaps with the concept of nationality, as both refer to the same status and the same rights, even if nationality can be used in a much wider context than the legal one. The sociologist C. Joppke argued that in most Western countries, there is a phenomenon of “lightening” in the value of citizenship, due to the changes that happened at the international level, with more and more mobility between countries, bringing more homogeneity in the way of life as well as in politics, and with conventions and global treaties on human rights or international law9. In this globalised context, with the phenomenon of “thinning identities”, citizenship in different countries seems to be mostly reduced to a legal, civic status in exchange for the respect for the same norms and rules within the country10. European citizenship is the perfect example of this phenomenon of “denationalisation”, with a legal status decoupled from a national identity. As Joppke wrote in a more recent work: “EU citizenship is notoriously a citizenship without identity”11. But, considering the different debates about Brexit, and precisely the formal, administrative aspect of the European citizenship that was criticised by Brexiters12, as well as the different discourses of governments concerning identities and citizenship, it can be argued, on the contrary, that there has been a revival of national identity, or renewed references to national membership, over the past few years.

  • 13 Maria Sobolewska and Robert Anthony Ford, op. cit.
  • 14 Theresa May, Keynote speech at Tory Conference, Birmingham, 5 October 2016.

8Following M. Sobolewska and R. Ford13 who explained that Brexit revealed deep identity divides, it can be argued that governments, T. May’s in particular, acknowledged these divides and offered, as a response, a reinforced “spirit of citizenship”, thus contradicting this civic, “light” European citizenship. Her sentence “But if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means14” perfectly illustrates the attempt to give greater significance to citizenship, associating it with a definite national sense of belonging.

  • 15 Manuel Valls, Déclaration de M. Manuel Valls, Premier ministre, sur la laïcité et les valeurs de la (...)

9In France, this view finds an echo in the position of Manuel Valls, Prime Minister during the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks. Indeed, he referred on several occasions to the principle of laïcité, as France’s “supplément d’âme15”, which defines France’s singularity and thus identity, as if legal citizenship was not enough. Faced with divides or crises, both the French and the British governments underline that civic citizenship, or this “light” version of membership to the nation, that refers to the mere compliance with the country’s rules, is not sufficient. These are examples of what E. Fargues describes as the “thickening of citizenship”, especially through policies that make access to citizenship harder:

  • 16 Émilien Fargues, « Simply a matter of compliance with the rules? The moralising and responsibilisin (...)

The renationalisation of citizenship relies upon the injunction to assimilate the values or way of life of the national community. In this respect, it denotes a communitarian rationale that aims to produce political subjects that are committed to ‘virtue’ and the ‘common good’, rather than simply being law abiding16.

  • 17 Manuel Valls, Déclaration de M. Manuel Valls, Premier ministre, sur la lutte contre le terrorisme e (...)
  • 18 Theresa May, PM speech on the Union, Stirling, Scotland, 4 July 2019.

10This past decade, the phenomenon of “renationalisation” of citizenship can be analysed more generally in a common governmental discourse on national identity and national sense of belonging, that gives another value than the civic one to the bonds that unite people living in the same country, and adds some cultural or “communitarian” elements. This is reflected in one of M. Valls’ speeches as Prime Minister, in which he declared that being French “is not only a passport or an Identity Card17”. This highlights the extent to which national identity has been “thickened” by the necessity to adhere to the official values (the “Republican principles”) and to show loyalty to the nation; it is thus not enough to be a citizen (and be recognised as such by the administration), in order to be part of the “French people”, individuals need to go further. The events of 2015 onwards seem to have accentuated a trend that was actually already visible, to a lesser extent, under New Labour or Nicolas Sarkozy a decade before, in reaction to the September 11 attacks in the United States and a series of riots and social unrest in both countries. Despite their political differences (and the fact that they were not on the same sides of the political spectrum), both Tony Blair and Nicolas Sarkozy seemed to introduce the idea that redefining and imposing national common values was a necessary and useful political tool (Tony Blair with the Community Cohesion programme and Nicolas Sarkozy with the creation of a new “Ministry of National Identity”). Besides, if C. Joppke highlighted a more general “denationalisation” trend, he also recognised that governments still tried to renationalise some political aspects, from 2001 onwards. Unsurprisingly, this renationalisation of discourse by governments and mainstream parties usually reappears in times of crises, as an attempt to recreate unity behind the national flag and “take back control” on the national community that seems deeply divided. As an example, three years after Brexit, in her speech on the Union, Theresa May continued to celebrate diversity among the four nations (recognising that “diversity is part of the deal”) but on the condition that unity remains and that the common sense of belonging is reinforced: “But we must also nurture the things that bring us together – and celebrate the shared bonds and interests that unite us18”.

1.2 The effect of crises in triggering a “nationalist” discourse: unity behind the national flag?

  • 19 Gilles Finchelstein, « Post mortem : Raison et déraison du débat sur la déchéance de nationalité », (...)
  • 20 Claire Zalc, « La déchéance de nationalité : Éléments d’histoire d’une révision constitutionnelle r (...)

11The apparent attempt to bring unity is not only visible in discourse, but also in the measures taken by governments. Only a few days after the terrorist attacks in Paris, François Hollande proposed drastic measures to fight terrorism, and especially the controversial extension of the withdrawal of citizenship. Many commentators considered this proposal, which was not part of the measures usually proposed by his own party (on the left of the political spectrum), as a desperate and symbolic way to ensure unity in the country after the tragic events of November 201519. The historian C. Zalc analysed the debate on citizenship deprivation in France, and showed that, in his speech to the Congrès, or when trying to convince the Assemblée Nationale to vote for the measure, President Hollande wanted to ensure the unity of the population against those who break the “republican contract20”.

  • 21 Manuel Valls, Déclaration de M. Manuel Valls, Premier ministre, sur la lutte contre le terrorisme e (...)
  • 22 Edouard Philippe, Déclaration de M. Edouard Philippe, Premier ministre, sur "l'alchimie particulièr (...)

12Going even further in the defence of citizenship deprivation, the then premier ministre, Manuel Valls combined the support for measures which are supposed to reassert what the national community is, with a more general discourse on nationality and patriotism. His words, which today still resonate with E. Macron’s “new patriotism” mentioned earlier, are the perfect illustration of the process of “thickening” citizenship. For M. Valls, the new legislation on nationality should necessarily be accompanied with expressions of love (an injunction that can hardly be codified) for the country, in order to “reunite” the French people “beyond divides” and respond to the “necessity of unity”21. More recently and beyond terrorist measures, E. Philippe, premier ministre in Macron’s first government, also insisted on a more “nationalist” or patriotic citizenship, especially targeting naturalised citizens, and asserting the necessity for the state to be demanding and strict on the conditions of access, in order to give more value to French nationality and ensure unity in the national community22.

  • 23 Among other intellectuals, Olivier Roy, denounced this measure and what it implied, showing that th (...)
  • 24 Sarah Mazouz, « Politiques de la délégitimation : de la remise en cause de la double nationalité au (...)

13However, these calls for unity, through extra value added to citizenship or through symbolical measures in times of crisis are quite paradoxical in their effects. For instance, with the deprivation of citizenship in France, the aim was to bring unity, but the measure has created one of the biggest divisions in the political sphere, causing the resignation of members of government (such as C. Taubira, minister of Justice at the time), and fuelled public debates for many months23. If implemented, the measure would also have created a distinction between mono-nationals and bi-nationals, as it could only be applied to bi-nationals. The sociologist S. Mazouz underlines this divisiveness in her work, showing that it would have conveyed the idea that binationals are, within the French people, those “who can be legitimately suspected24”.

  • 25 Christopher Bertram, “Chapter 5: Citizenship, semi-citizenship and the hostile environment: the per (...)
  • 26 Christian Joppke, « Terror and the loss of citizenship », Citizenship Studies, 2 October 2016, vol. (...)

14In the same way, in Britain, this more nationalist approach to citizenship, which is supposed to reinforce unity and the Union, also bears some divisions, and the measures put in place in this sense also create new “borders”, dividing the population. That is actually what the philosopher C. Bertram explains in his work, with the concept of “bordering practices”. He does not only refer here to immigration controls and hard borders, but rather to all the practices that are put in place to identify and create different categories of people, especially after terrorist attacks and Brexit, which define boundaries between “members” and “non-members25” of the national community. The “social divisiveness26” of measures like citizenship stripping can be extended to nationality measures in general. Policies, like the “hostile environment” under T. May (which made the conditions so unpleasant for immigrants that they might decide to leave) or integration policies in general, though they are said to reinforce the bonds in the national community, seem to have counterproductive effects as they accentuate divides.

15As seen above, this dynamic of renationalisation seems mostly to appear in discourse during crises, but has also a reality in the policies put in place, and this is most salient in security policies, showing that redefining more firmly the bonds of the national community is seen as a tool to ensure security.

2. The phenomenon of “renationalisation” through security. The governments’ response to and/or mobilisation of identity divides

  • 27 Theresa May, PM speech at Munich Security Conference, 17 February 2018, in which she mentions “our (...)

16Paradoxically, even though recent governments have insisted, despite Brexit, on the necessity to internationalise cooperation or Europeanise security policies27 for more efficiency, it is also through security policies that the “nationalising” process of citizenship and identity seems to be the strongest. The study in this part will focus on two sets of policies, that appear to be very similar between France and the UK: the deprivation of citizenship, and the policies surrounding integration and the fight against extremism (or “separatism” for France).

2.1 On nationality and citizenship

  • 28 François Hollande, Déclaration du Président devant le Parlement réuni en Congrès, Versailles, 16 no (...)

17A lot of similarities can be found in France’s and Britain’s approaches in their fight against terrorism and with the measures surrounding security and citizenship, in an attempt, it seems, to respond to “identity divides”. Citizenship deprivation can be seen as a way to “thicken” or renationalise citizenship, because it is presented by governments as a way to give more value to the British or French nationality, and redefine the “borders” of the national community (by determining who can no longer be part of it). For example, when F. Hollande presented his government’s plan to change the constitution in order to extend the deprivation of citizenship to French-born individuals, he declared that it was “legitimate” that the constitution, as a “vital collective pact to live together”, “included the response to fight against those who would harm it28”.

  • 29 Jules Lepoutre, art. cit. p. 107‑118.

18In his comparison of the two countries’ legal approaches, J. Lepoutre29 explains that the British Nationality Act (1981) has been amended many times since 2002 in order to make it easier to strip people of citizenship. In the same way, the déchéance de nationalité, regulated by Article 25 of the French Code civil (amended in 1996), started to be used in 2002. Thus, the legislative dispositions surrounding the removal of citizenship in the context of the fight against terrorism already existed in both countries, but it is more recently that both governments, especially the Conservatives in the UK, and the Socialists in France, tried to extend it. Originally, this measure aimed at depriving bi-nationals of their citizenship, but only naturalised citizens in France, and only when they had another citizenship (in order not to make these individuals stateless, as protected by Human Rights under international law). In France, the constitutional change was supposed to extend the possibility to also deprive French-born individuals from their citizenship, but the measure was abandoned.

  • 30 United Kingdom, British Nationality Act, 1981, Section 40-4A.
  • 31 Matthew Gibney, “Beware States Piercing Holes into Citizenship”, in Rainer Bauböck (ed.), Debating (...)
  • 32 On this issue, D. Prabhat wrote an article in The Conversation: Devyani Prabhat, “Stripping British (...)
  • 33 Sajid Javid, “Confronting Extremism Together”, Coin Street Community Centre, London, 19 July 2019: (...)

19In the UK, the recent extensions of deprivation of citizenship were rather on the conditions of its application, giving more and more discretionary powers to the Secretary of State. The 2014 Immigration Act amended the conditions of application and thus changed Section 40 of the British Nationality Act, giving the Secretary of State the possibility to apply deprivation, if they consider it is “conducive to the public good”, and if they have “reasonable grounds for believing that the person is able, under the law of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom, to become a national of such a country or territory30”. This measure pushes further the statelessness limit imposed by international conventions. As the political scientist M. Gibney explains31, successive Conservative governments managed to reduce gradually the constraints over denationalisation. Even more recently, in 2021, the Nationality and Borders bill was hotly debated in Parliament because of the new changes it suggested for the deprivation of citizenship, by giving the Home Secretary even more power, as they would no longer have to give notice to the individual of their deprivation in case of national security concerns, thus limiting drastically the possibility for them to appeal32. And indeed, the Nationality and Borders Act adopted in 2022, amended Section 40 (subsection 5) of the British Nationality Act by removing the notice requirement under certain conditions. When Sajid Javid, then Home Secretary, presented the government’s new plan to fight extremism, he argued in favour of depriving individuals “with the most extreme views” of citizenship33. This shows that citizenship deprivation does not have to be limited to the commission of acts of terrorism, but could also be applied to “views” that would go against the “public good”.

  • 34 Colin Yeo, “Chapter 7: The rise of modern banishment: deprivation and nullification of British citi (...)
  • 35 J. Lepoutre counted 37 deprivations for the UK against 13 in France between 2002 and 2016: Jules Le (...)

20These different attempts to amend and extend the law show that, in successive governments, there is a growing tendency to firmer measures in limiting the access to citizenship, and thus in the way the national community is defined. Nevertheless, if there are strong similarities between France and the UK in the tendency to resort to the removal of citizenship as a tool against terrorism, it is still worth noting some important differences. Where France abandoned the constitutional change in March 2016, and thus the extension of citizenship deprivation, the UK still went further34 and used it more often35.

2.2 On extremism and separatism

  • 36 France, Loi n° 2021-1109 du 24 août 2021 confortant le respect des principes de la République.
  • 37 United Kingdom, Integrated Community Strategy, Summary of consultation responses and Government res (...)
  • 38 France, Loi n° 2021-1109 du 24 août 2021 confortant le respect des principes de la République : « A (...)
  • 39 Sajid Javid, “Confronting Extremism Together”, Coin Street Community Centre, London, 19 July 2019.
  • 40 United Kingdom, Integrated Community Strategy, Summary of consultation responses and Government res (...)
  • 41 Emmanuel Macron, in Laureline Dupont, « Entretien Événement. Ce que Macron n'a jamais dit des Franç (...)

21Another set of policies, which was imagined in a post-terror context to prevent the development of extremism, both in Britain and in France, seems also to be thought of as a response to identity divides, and especially within communities. As mentioned earlier, there is a form of continuity in the solutions offered by governments to these identity divides: asserting a national identity more strongly, through the promotion of national values. In this study, we compared France’s policies and discourse against “separatism”, which were put into law in E. Macron’s Loi confortant les principes de la République36, in 2021, with the 2019 “Integrated Communities strategy37” launched under T. May’s government. In both cases, the pillars of these policies are the definition and the valorisation of values presented as singular national ones (which are usually quite universal: the respect for individual liberties, equality, democracy, and the rule of law). In France, the response to identity divides by the government usually takes the form of laïcité, the French reference to a concept of faith or religious neutrality in public services and places, that triggered many public debates, even before terrorist events on the French territory, and which was mostly defended by M. Valls after the 2015 terrorist attacks. Besides, even though the last French governments were not from the same political party (between Hollande’s Socialist party, on the left, and E. Macron’s République en Marche, usually defined as a centre-right party), they kept the same line in terms of integration, and E. Macron’s 2021 law against separatism also insists on reasserting the principle of laïcité in public services. Indeed, the very first article of this law is dedicated to the respect of “laïcité principles” in the public services, and extended to private companies working for the public services38. Furthermore, the references to language skills and cultural knowledge of the country are common elements to the UK and to France in their policies of integration, and are presented as key elements to limit identity divides, even if it can be argued that, on the contrary, they stoke divides by excluding those who do not embrace this firmer national identity or who do not correspond to the new, stricter conditions. These policies are not new, as they had already been supported by the New Labour government more than a decade ago, as well as under N. Sarkozy (2007-2012), and they seem to be constantly repeated and renewed, as if, each time, these expectations had not been firm enough. Sajid Javid in 2019, for example, mentioned “boosting integration by committing to new British Values Tests and strengthened English Language provision39”. In the Government’s response to the public consultation over their “Integrated Communities Strategy”, we can see how the public challenged what the government meant by helping new migrants to “understand British values” among other policies. The governmental response underlines how much they still continue to insist on the same elements: the expectations concerning language and common values must be reinforced40. This also echoes E. Macron’s words when he identifies a “cultural insecurity” that could be tackled by reflecting on the French identity, and by insisting on the French language and history41.

  • 42 Émilien Fargues, « Fabriquer des citoyens « autonomes » : « tournant civique » et vision néolibéral (...)

22As seen both for policies to fight terrorism and extremism, there is a phenomenon of renationalisation of the discourse on security and nationality. To be fully considered as a member of the national community, the individual needs to fulfil expectations from the state at several levels, beyond the civic approach that implies respect for the rule of law and common norms. Going further, E. Fargues42 explains that three levels of expected integration can be identified: civic or normative, ethical or ethnocultural (with the respect of common values), but also a neoliberal level, with the necessity for the individual to show they are integrated in the market, and that they bring more benefits than costs to the country.

23The analysis of this phenomenon of “renationalisation” reveals, therefore, the particular interpretation made by successive governments of the current issues and ”crises”. It is argued in the final part that the way the divides are identified, mobilised and tackled by the government, through firmer security policies, reflect political and possibly electoral strategies.

2.3 Top-down approach: The consequences of the governmental reading of “identity divides”

  • 43 Manuel Valls, Déclaration de M. Manuel Valls, Premier ministre, sur les défis et priorités de la co (...)

24Indeed, this study focusing on security policies and the references to national identity shows the particular interpretation of the situation, along cultural-national lines, made by governments, especially after crises like terrorist attacks or Brexit. This can be illustrated by the view that Brexit is a consequence of the rise of national-populist parties in Europe, which implies for governments to hear the “people’s voice” and respond to their cultural fears. When we look at the French government’s reaction to Brexit, and the way they interpreted it, we can see that the renationalisation of discourse also operates at that level. Manuel Valls declared that it was telling about the “peoples’ malaise43, and the need to reinforce the European Union by considering the peoples’ demands. In the same way, Theresa May, in October 2016, mentioned a “silent revolution” of the people, who are misunderstood by the European elites:

  • 44 Theresa May, Keynote speech at Tory Conference, Birmingham, 5 October 2016.

They find your patriotism distasteful, your concerns about immigration parochial, your views about crime illiberal, your attachment to your job security inconvenient44.

  • 45 Boris Johnson, Speech on the EU referendum, London, 9 May 2016.
  • 46 Emmanuel Macron, in Laureline Dupont, « Entretien Événement. Ce que Macron n'a jamais dit des Franç (...)
  • 47 Christopher Bertram, “Chapter 5 : Citizenship, semi-citizenship and the hostile environment: the pe (...)

25This also shows their interpretation of the Brexit vote through the immigration or cultural lens. In a different way, Boris Johnson’s discourse illustrates the same kind of interpretation as he identifies the failure of Europe in the lack of common ground and identity that would unite the people45. Just as the references to firmer security policies around nationality and integration, the questions raised about European construction after Brexit, even among French politicians, are indicative of the way governments tried to appeal to voters who, they consider, are attracted by populist or radical right parties. Again, the solution seems to be the “renationalisation” of politics, and especially of the relationship with Europe46. In analysing the governmental discourse more closely, we can see in both countries a constant tension between a “lightened”, civic membership (the respect for the law) and a more cultural or nationalist view of the national community (with identified values), as if governments tried to reconcile two views, and possibly appeal to two different electorates. The philosopher C. Bertram also analysed the difficult negotiation between a civic and what he calls a “nativist” citizenship, more clearly defined with ethno-racial or cultural criteria. For this author, the tendency can be explained by the rise of the far-right, and could be an attempt by governments to attract the electorate of the far right and mobilise the majority of the population in times of threat. What is interesting is the distinction he makes between the citizen (referring to the civic status) and the people which would refer to the national community47.

  • 48 Pontus Odmalm et Jens Rydgren, « Introduction: comparing and reconceptualising the (populist) radic (...)
  • 49 Tim Vlandas and Daphne Halikiopoulou, « Does unemployment matter? Economic insecurity, labour marke (...)
  • 50 Daphne Halikiopoulou and Tim Vlandas, « Understanding Right-Wing Populism and What to Do about It » (...)

26Moreover, the continuity of policies and discourse around national identity throughout the years, despite different political lines, reveals a growing consensus in mainstream parties over the socio-cultural interpretation of divides, neglecting economic insecurities. This can be analysed in the light of what J. Rydgren and P. Odmalm underlined in their work on the rise of radical-right parties. By referring to the study conducted on a new Swedish party by J. Rydgren and S. Van Der Meiden, the authors note that there has been “a partial depolitisation of the economic […] and a corresponding politicisation of issues along the socio-cultural axis48”, which could explain, partly, the success of marginal parties, and then why mainstream parties also decide to take on identity-related issues. Besides, the authors D. Halikopoulou and T. Vlandas49 challenged the idea that support for populist or nationalist parties only stems from cultural demands of the people. They consider on the contrary that traditional economic divides help understand the support for such parties in Europe, with for example, the rejection of immigration, not necessarily for cultural reasons, but for economic reasons (and the fear for job losses). They also argue that social or welfare policies can have an impact in “mitigating these insecurities50”. However, as shown in this article, this does not seem to be the path taken by either the French or the British governments, for whom focusing on identity divides might seem a more effective political (and electoral) strategy.

Conclusion

27 The way governments identify and respond to identity divides is mostly visible through security, citizenship and integration policies, that draw the limits of the national community. This is particularly true in times of crisis, and especially from 2015 onwards, after terrorist attacks in France and in the UK, but also after Brexit. Nevertheless, despite some national differences (especially on citizenship deprivation), it has been shown that there is a form of continuity and gradual increase in the process of renationalisation, both in France and in the UK. This creates a dual discourse, quite singular to the period, which is visible in two ways: first, through the tension between a civic and more “nativist” perspective of national identity, and through the promotion of European cooperation and openness (especially for the economy) while at the same time insisting on the national feelings and voices of the European “peoples”.

  • 51 Sajid Javid, “Confronting Extremism Together”, Coin Street Community Centre, London, 19 July 2019.
  • 52 Rebecca Partos, “Chapter 2: The British Case”, in Pontus Odmalm et Eve Hepburn (eds.), The European (...)

28As said previously, the renationalisation of discourse, through tougher policies in terms of security, immigration or integration reveals political strategies. It seems to have an electoral goal, rather than a real ideological perspective, but it might be counterproductive in many ways. We have already mentioned that it could first and paradoxically accentuate social divides, while being inefficient in countering extremism (as Javid said in 2019 that the situation has gotten worse despite T. May’s policies when Home Secretary51). But it might also fuel distrust among voters towards mainstream parties, as they cannot hold their always stricter promises in terms of integration or security. That is what R. Partos as well as P. Odmalm52 showed, when analysing the platforms of mainstream parties faced with the rise of radical-right parties: being tougher and tougher on immigration or integration might justify voters’ fears and legitimise support for radical-right parties, as mainstream parties cannot always meet their restrictive targets.

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Bibliographie

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Notes

1 Emmanuel Macron, in Laureline Dupont, « Entretien Événement. Ce que Macron n'a jamais dit des Français », L’Express, Paris, 21 décembre 2020, « "J'ai contribué à révéler beaucoup de divisions", dit Emmanuel Macron dans le long et dense entretien qu'il nous a accordé jeudi 17 décembre ».

2 Sajid Javid, “Confronting Extremism Together”, Coin Street Community Centre, London, 19 July 2019.

3 Christian Joppke spoke of the “inevitable lightening of citizenship”, considering the impact of globalisation and transnational organisations on national membership, by creating other forms of belonging, and replacing the traditional national or state membership. In this article, he underlines a paradox: the decline of state membership and the “subjective”, national value of citizenship on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the states’ increasing efforts to “to upgrade and re-nationalize citizenship by ceremony, civic integration tests, and more exclusive rights”: Christian Joppke, “The Inevitable Lightening of Citizenship.” European Journal of Sociology, vol. 51, no. 1, 2010, p. 9–32.

4 Maria Sobolewska and Robert Anthony Ford, Brexitland: identity, diversity and the reshaping of British politics, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press, 2020, 391 p.

5 Émilien Fargues, « The revival of citizenship deprivation in France and the UK as an instance of citizenship renationalisation », Citizenship Studies, 17 novembre 2017, vol. 21, nᵒ 8, p. 984‑998.

6 Jules Lepoutre, « Le bannissement des nationaux : Comparaison (France-Royaume-Uni) au regard de la lutte contre le terrorisme », Revue critique de droit international privé, 1 janvier 2016, N° 1, no 1, p. 107 118.

7 Maria Sobolewska and Robert Anthony Ford, Brexitland: identity, diversity and the reshaping of British politics, Cambridge University Press, 2020, 391 p.

8 Definition found in Britannica Dictionary, available online the 20th June 2023: https://www.britannica.com/dictionary/citizen

9 Christian Joppke, 2010, art. cit.

10 Christian Joppke, « The instrumental turn of citizenship », Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 26 avril 2019, vol. 45, no 6, p. 858. He defined thin identities on p. 863: “Citizenship by nature is thin citizenship. It unites people not in shared beliefs and purposes but in a common legal framework that is the presupposition for people to associate, or abstain from association, at their own discretion”.

11 Ibid. p.870.

12 For example: Boris Johnson, Speech on the EU referendum, London, 9 May 2016: “There is simply no common political culture in Europe; no common media, no common sense of humour or satire; and – this is important – no awareness of each other’s politics, so that the European Union as a whole has no common sense of the two things you need for a democracy to work efficiently”.

13 Maria Sobolewska and Robert Anthony Ford, op. cit.

14 Theresa May, Keynote speech at Tory Conference, Birmingham, 5 October 2016.

15 Manuel Valls, Déclaration de M. Manuel Valls, Premier ministre, sur la laïcité et les valeurs de la République, Evry, 17 octobre 2016.

16 Émilien Fargues, « Simply a matter of compliance with the rules? The moralising and responsibilising function of fraud-based citizenship deprivation in France and the UK », Citizenship Studies, 19 mai 2019, vol. 23, no 4, p.357.

17 Manuel Valls, Déclaration de M. Manuel Valls, Premier ministre, sur la lutte contre le terrorisme et l’antisémitisme, Paris, 9 janvier 2016 : « Être Français, ce n'est pas seulement un passeport, une carte d'identité - c'est au cœur du débat que nous avons -, ça n'a rien à voir d'ailleurs avec le droit du sol, avec le sang ou avec l'acquisition ».

18 Theresa May, PM speech on the Union, Stirling, Scotland, 4 July 2019.

19 Gilles Finchelstein, « Post mortem : Raison et déraison du débat sur la déchéance de nationalité », Pouvoirs, 2017, vol. 160, no 1, p. 99.

20 Claire Zalc, « La déchéance de nationalité : Éléments d’histoire d’une révision constitutionnelle ratée », Pouvoirs, 2018, vol. 166, no 3, p.8 : « un geste qui marque l’union de tous ceux qui respectent le pacte républicain contre tous ceux qui le brisent ».

21 Manuel Valls, Déclaration de M. Manuel Valls, Premier ministre, sur la lutte contre le terrorisme et l’antisémitisme, Paris, 9 janvier 2016 : « Cet objectif, c'est de rassembler le plus largement possible. Je suis convaincu que les Français se rassembleront autour de cet objectif, au-delà des clivages. Faisons vivre cette exigence d'unité. C'est aussi ce nouveau patriotisme - celui qui s'est exprimé si fortement dans les rues – qui ne doit plus jamais retomber : cet amour de la République qu'on a ressenti le 11 janvier 2015 ; cet amour de la Nation, de ces symboles, nos couleurs, l'hymne national, notre devise, chantés, proclamés, rappelés pas seulement à Paris ou en France, mais partout dans le monde. »

22 Edouard Philippe, Déclaration de M. Edouard Philippe, Premier ministre, sur "l'alchimie particulière qui, au fil des siècles, a produit et cimenté la nation française", Paris, 21 mars 2019 : « Enfin, je l'ai dit, devenir Français, c'est exigeant, et ça doit le rester. Parce que cette exigence est la meilleure manière de garantir la cohésion de notre nation ».

23 Among other intellectuals, Olivier Roy, denounced this measure and what it implied, showing that this measure targeted particular communities rather than ensuring equality: Olivier Roy, « Déchéance de nationalité, déchéance des valeurs de gauche », L’Obs, 6 janvier 2016, available online the 23rd June 2023 : https://www.nouvelobs.com/politique/20160106.OBS2315/olivier-roy-decheance-de-nationalite-decheance-des-valeurs-de-gauche.html

24 Sarah Mazouz, « Politiques de la délégitimation : de la remise en cause de la double nationalité au projet d’extension de la déchéance de nationalité », Mouvements, 2016, p.165 : « Ce qui reste c’est l’idée qu’ils sont, parmi les Français.e.s, ceux qu’il est légitime de soupçonner et pour lesquels la nationalité n’est plus un droit, même, et c’est nouveau, pour celles et ceux qui sont français.e.s par filiation ».

25 Christopher Bertram, “Chapter 5: Citizenship, semi-citizenship and the hostile environment: the performativity of bordering practices” in Devyani Prabhat (ed.), Citizenship In Times Of Turmoil? Theory, Practice and Policy, Cheltenham, 2019, p. 94.

26 Christian Joppke, « Terror and the loss of citizenship », Citizenship Studies, 2 October 2016, vol. 20, no 6‑7, p. 745.

27 Theresa May, PM speech at Munich Security Conference, 17 February 2018, in which she mentions “our common security”, asserts common “fundamental values” that “have created common cause to act together in our shared interest”.

28 François Hollande, Déclaration du Président devant le Parlement réuni en Congrès, Versailles, 16 novembre 2015 : « Dès lors que la Constitution est le pacte collectif indispensable pour vivre ensemble, il est légitime que la Constitution comporte les réponses pour lutter contre ceux qui voudraient y porter atteinte, de la même manière que sont voués à la dissolution les associations ou les groupements de fait qui provoquent la haine ou incitent à la commission d'actes terroristes ».

29 Jules Lepoutre, art. cit. p. 107‑118.

30 United Kingdom, British Nationality Act, 1981, Section 40-4A.

31 Matthew Gibney, “Beware States Piercing Holes into Citizenship”, in Rainer Bauböck (ed.), Debating Transformations of National Citizenship, Cham, Springer International Publishing, 2018, pp. 219-223.

32 On this issue, D. Prabhat wrote an article in The Conversation: Devyani Prabhat, “Stripping British citizenship: the government’s new bill explained”, The Conversation, 14 December 2021.

33 Sajid Javid, “Confronting Extremism Together”, Coin Street Community Centre, London, 19 July 2019: “Removing British citizenship from dual nationals to keep dangerous individuals with the most extreme views out of the UK.”

34 Colin Yeo, “Chapter 7: The rise of modern banishment: deprivation and nullification of British citizenship”, in Devyani Prabhat (ed.), Citizenship In Times Of Turmoil? Theory, Practice And Policy, Cheltenham, UK, 2019, p. 135.

35 J. Lepoutre counted 37 deprivations for the UK against 13 in France between 2002 and 2016: Jules Lepoutre, art. cit. p. 109.

36 France, Loi n° 2021-1109 du 24 août 2021 confortant le respect des principes de la République.

37 United Kingdom, Integrated Community Strategy, Summary of consultation responses and Government response, February 2019.

38 France, Loi n° 2021-1109 du 24 août 2021 confortant le respect des principes de la République : « Article 1 : Lorsque la loi ou le règlement confie directement l'exécution d'un service public à un organisme de droit public ou de droit privé, celui-ci est tenu d'assurer l'égalité des usagers devant le service public et de veiller au respect des principes de laïcité et de neutralité du service public ».

39 Sajid Javid, “Confronting Extremism Together”, Coin Street Community Centre, London, 19 July 2019.

40 United Kingdom, Integrated Community Strategy, Summary of consultation responses and Government response, February 2019: “We have heard the concerns raised that the delivery of the proposals set out in the Green Paper may give rise to the perception that Government does not fully respect everyone’s right to feel confident in their identity. We are absolutely clear that integration is not assimilation and that building integrated communities does not mean that people must abandon their identity or heritage and we will continue to take steps to celebrate the many faiths and cultures in the UK. […] The Government’s respect for faith groups however must not prevent us from vigorously promoting rights to equal treatment, rights and freedoms, where necessary.”

41 Emmanuel Macron, in Laureline Dupont, « Entretien Événement. Ce que Macron n'a jamais dit des Français », L’Express, Paris, 21 décembre 2020 : « Et parce que ce doute s'est nourri de phénomènes qui, comme les migrations, ont créé une forme "d'insécurité culturelle" et qui conduit à se demander ce que signifie être français. Il me semble qu'être français, c'est d'abord habiter une langue et une histoire, c'est-à-dire s'inscrire dans un destin collectif. C'est pour cette raison que nous renforcerons les cours de français et nos exigences en histoire, en particulier pour accéder à la nationalité ».

42 Émilien Fargues, « Fabriquer des citoyens « autonomes » : « tournant civique » et vision néolibérale de l’intégration dans la procédure de naturalisation française », Revue européenne des migrations internationales, 31 décembre 2020, vol. 36, no 4, pp. 55-75.

43 Manuel Valls, Déclaration de M. Manuel Valls, Premier ministre, sur les défis et priorités de la construction européenne, Paris, 28 juin 2016, « Ce vote montre, d'une certaine manière, le malaise des peuples ».

44 Theresa May, Keynote speech at Tory Conference, Birmingham, 5 October 2016.

45 Boris Johnson, Speech on the EU referendum, London, 9 May 2016.

46 Emmanuel Macron, in Laureline Dupont, « Entretien Événement. Ce que Macron n'a jamais dit des Français », L’Express, Paris, 21 décembre 2020, declared: « l'Europe nous rend-elle plus grands ou est-ce une machine qui nous oppresse? Nous sommes, je suis, l'héritier de tout cela. Et nous sommes à présent pris par notre volonté farouche, absolue, de reprendre le contrôle de notre vie, de notre vie intime et de la France comme nation ».

47 Christopher Bertram, “Chapter 5 : Citizenship, semi-citizenship and the hostile environment: the performativity of bordering practices” in Devyani Prabhat (ed.), Citizenship In Times Of Turmoil? Theory, Practice And Policy, Cheltenham, UK, 2019, p.107.

48 Pontus Odmalm et Jens Rydgren, « Introduction: comparing and reconceptualising the (populist) radical right », European Political Science, septembre 2019, vol. 18, no 3, p. 374; Jens Rydgren and Sara Van Der Meiden, « The radical right and the end of Swedish exceptionalism », European Political Science, September 2019, vol. 18, no 3, p. 439‑455.

49 Tim Vlandas and Daphne Halikiopoulou, « Does unemployment matter? Economic insecurity, labour market policies and the far-right vote in Europe », European Political Science, September 2019, vol. 18, no 3, p. 421-438.

50 Daphne Halikiopoulou and Tim Vlandas, « Understanding Right-Wing Populism and What to Do about It », SSRN Electronic Journal, 2022, p.141.

51 Sajid Javid, “Confronting Extremism Together”, Coin Street Community Centre, London, 19 July 2019.

52 Rebecca Partos, “Chapter 2: The British Case”, in Pontus Odmalm et Eve Hepburn (eds.), The European mainstream and the populist radical right, London, New York, Routledge, 2019, 165 p.

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Annaëlle PRUGNEAU, « The (re)definition of national identity through security policies from 2016 onwards. A Comparative study of governmental discourse between France and the UK »Observatoire de la société britannique, 30 | 2023, 119-137.

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Annaëlle PRUGNEAU, « The (re)definition of national identity through security policies from 2016 onwards. A Comparative study of governmental discourse between France and the UK »Observatoire de la société britannique [En ligne], 30 | 2023, mis en ligne le 01 janvier 2024, consulté le 19 juin 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/osb/6072 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/osb.6072

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Annaëlle PRUGNEAU

Doctorante en civilisation britannique à l’Université Savoie Mont Blanc

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