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Tamsin Parnell

Languages and Literature, University of Nottingham

Thesis title:

"Brexit Britain": How do British political documents and pro-Brexit newspapers construct British, EU and extra-European identities in Brexit-related immigration discourse?

Identities, particularly national identities, played a decisive role in the United Kingdom’s European Union membership referendum of 2016 (Ashcroft and Bevir, 2016; Browne, 2017). In fact, Koegler, Malreddy and Tronicke (2020) argue that no recent political event has had as much influence on British narratives of national and transnational identities as Brexit. This thesis is the first to diachronically explore the role of discourses of British and European identities in the Brexit process across three data sets: pro-Brexit newspapers, UK Government documents, and interviews with individual Leave and Remain voters. 

Using a unique combination of corpus-assisted critical discourse analysis and a discourse analysis of narratives, the thesis investigates how Britain and Europe are discursively constructed and positioned in relation to each other in the three data sets. It questions what national identity narratives for Britain are identified across the data sets, and what their democratic implications are. 

The analyses reveal that there is a complementary narrative of national division and decline that pervades the three data sets, which poses a threat to British identity at a time when the construction of a collective identity is likely to be paramount. The image of Brexit Britain that emerges is of a politically, socio-economically, geographically divided nation. This representation is not only a direct contradiction of the great global trading nation narrative that the Vote Leave campaigners – and later the UK Government – promised, but it is also at odds with what one might expect given the purposes of the institutional texts: to present an argument in favour of Brexit Britain. 

Ultimately, the findings suggest that the transition from pre- to post-Brexit Britain was a crucial period of destabilisation for institutional and lay national identity narratives. They also illustrate that the next few years are likely to be just as important: the UK is forging its post-Brexit place in the world amid declining levels of trust in politicians (Curtice and Montagu, 2020), increasing devolution anxiety in England (Henderson and Wyn Jones, 2021), and calls for a second Scottish independence referendum. The mid-2020s are likely to be a tumultuous time for Britain, and a stable national identity narrative which resonates with citizens will undoubtedly be important to political officials to fend off threats to the domestic Union and to attract international partners. The question will be if, and how, the UK can progress from a widespread narrative of national disunity and decline to one of unity and influence.

Viva passed: 14/02/23.

Research Area

  • Languages and Literature



[Forthcoming] Parnell, T. Constructing Brexit Britain. London: Bloomsbury.

Articles, book chapters, and technical reports

[Forthcoming] Parnell, T. 'I still felt British': Negotiating Brexit-related identities through stories. In: Tyler, K., Banducci, S. and Degnen, C. (Eds.) Reflections on polarisation and inequalities in Brexit Pandemic Times. London: Routledge.

[In production] Parnell, T. Brexit and disinformation. In: Maci, S., Demata, M, McGlashan, M. and Seargeant, P. (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Discourse and Disinformation. London: Routledge.

Parnell, T. (2023). ‘A tide of homeless, drug-addicted and mentally ill people’: Representing homeless people in MailOnline content'. Journal of Corpora and Discourse Studies, 6, 1-24.

Adolphs, S., McAuley, D., Vilar-Lluch, S., Knight, D., McClaughlin, E., Nichele, E., Clos, J., Barnard, P.,  Parnell, T. & Lang, A. (2023). Communicating health threats – Linguistic evidence for health messaging during the COVID-19 pandemic. Download here.

Parnell, T. (2022). The representation of migrant identities in UK Government documents about Brexit: a corpus-assisted analysis. Journal of Language and Politics.

McClaughlin, E., Vilar-Lluch, S., Parnell, T., Knight, D., Nichele, E., Adolphs, S., Clos, J., & Schiazza, G. (2022). The reception of public health messages during the Covid-19 pandemicApplied Corpus Linguistics (ACORP).

Parnell, T. (2022). “Tinpot revolutionary agitation”: Framing Brexit-related demonstrations in the British pro-Brexit press. Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis Across Disciplines. 14(1): 45-62.

Parnell, T. (2022). Unravelling the Global Britain vision? International relationships and national identity in UK Government documents about Brexit, 2016-2019. Discourse & Society. 33(3). 

Parnell, T. (2021). Humiliating and dividing the nation in the British pro-Brexit press: a corpus-assisted analysis. Critical Discourse Studies. 0(0): 1-17.

Non-peer reviewed papers

Parnell, T. (2017). The influence of sociopolitical ideology on the discursive construction of migrant, refugee and asylum seeker representations in The Express. Innervate: Leading Undergraduate Work in English Studies. [Undergraduate dissertation. Cited twice].

Public engagement publications and podcasts

Podcast: Conflict Tipping: Tamsin Parnell on Discourse and Division. (2022).

Parnell, T. (2021). Linguistic Horizons: Exploring the language of national identity during Brexit. Babel Magazine. Issue 36.

Kennedy, C. R., Parnell, T. and Rhodes, A. (2022). "Lived experience" activism? Researcher Activist Network Zine

Book reviews

[Forthcoming] Parnell, T. (2023). Book Review: Britain in Fragments. Journal of Common Market Studies. 

Parnell, T. (2022). Book Review: Brexit as a Social and Political Crisis: Discourses in Media and Politics. Discourse Studies.

Parnell, T. (2021). Book Review: Corpus-Based Analysis of Ideological Bias: Migration in the British Press. Journal of Corpora and Discourse Studies, 4. [Cited once].

Parnell, T. (2021). Book Review: Linguistic Inquiries into Donald Trump's Language: From 'Fake News' to 'Tremendous Success'Discourse Studies, 23(3). 

Parnell, T. (2021). Book Review: Britain and Europe in a Troubled WorldJournal of Languages, Texts and Society, 5.



Parnell, T. (2022). "Tinpot revolutionary agitation": Framing Brexit-related demonstrations in the British pro-Brexit press". Corpora and Discourse International Conference 2022, Bertinoro, Italy. In-person. 26-28 August.

Parnell, T. (2022). Unravelling the Global Britain vision. International relationships and national identity in UK Government documents about Brexit, 2016-2019. Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis Across Disciplines Conference 2022, University of Bergamo. 6-8 July. Online.

Parnell, T. (2022). "I still felt British": Negotiating Brexit-related identities through stories. Language, Ideology and Power research group. Lancaster University. 3 February. [Invited talk].

Parnell, T. (2021). "I still felt British": Negotiating Brexit-related identities through stories. Identity, Inequality and the Media in Brexit-COVID-19-Britain. University of Exeter. 10 November.

Parnell, T. (2021). "I still felt British": Negotiating Brexit-related identities through stories. Trent Language Sandwich. Nottingham Trent University. 3 November. [Invited talk].

Parnell, T. (2021). Imagining Europe in the pro-Brexit press (2016- 2019): a diachronic analysis of representation and socio-political agenda. 27th International Conference of Europeanists. Online. 25 June.

Parnell, T. (2021). Constructing the "acceptable EU migrant" in the UK Government's Brexit-related documents. Approaches to Migration, Language and Identity. University of Sussex. Online. 9 June. [See this article written about my presentation in The London Economic].

Parnell, T. (2021). 'A nation divided? Constructing Britain in the pro-Brexit British press, 2018–2019.' University of Sussex, MA module 'Language and Culture'. 12 February. [Invited talk].

Parnell, T. (2021). Representing Britain and Europe in the pro-Brexit British press, 2016-2019. Presented at: University of Nottingham School of English Postgraduate Research Symposium. Online. 22 January.

Parnell, T. (2021). United or Divided? Exploring the construction of Britishness in the pro-Brexit press and its socio-political implications. Presented at: Discourse and Politics Seminar Series 2021. Online. 11 January.

Parnell, T. (2020). From union to disunion: a diachronic analysis of national identity construction in the pro-Brexit press (2016-2019). Presented at: Created Identities Conference. Online. 5 September.

Parnell, T. (2020). 'Plotting', 'Robbing', 'Revolting': Remainers and national identity in the pro-Brexit press. Presented at: Corpora and Discourse International Conference. Online. 18 June.

Parnell, T. (2020). Identity, language and discourse. Presented at: AHRC/ESRC roundtable discussion. University of Nottingham. 20 February.

Chairing panels

Panel chair: 'Past and present'. Chaired at: School of English Research Symposium. 21 January 2022.

Panel chair: 'Texts, journalism and society in context'. Chaired at: Midlands4Cities Digital Research Festival 2021. Online. 8 June 2021.

Panel chair: 'Political (mis)information and concluding remarks'. Chaired at: Discourse and Politics Seminar Series 2021. Online. 8 March 2021.

Panel chair: 'Social movements'. Chaired at: Discourse and Politics Seminar Series 2021. Online. 8 February 2021.

Panel chair: 'Brexit'. Chaired at: Discourse and Politics Seminar Series 2021. Online. 11 January 2021.

Panel chair: 'Constructing and exploring social identities'. Chaired at: Languages, Texts and Society 4th Conference: The Researcher's Journey. Online. 12 June 2020.

Conference organisation

Registration helper: LAGB Conference 2021. September 2021.

Co-organiser: Midlands4Cities Research Festival. Online. 7-11 June 2021.

Co-organiser: Discourse and Politics Seminar Series 2021. Online. January - March 2021.

Programme advisor: University of Nottingham's School of English Postgraduate Research Symposium. January 2019.

Organiser: The Media Conference 2017. [Media and journalism conference with 70+ delegates as part of my role as Editor-in-Chief of Impact magazine].

Public Engagement & Impact

Academic activities

As the activities below indicate, I am passionate about amplifying postgraduate student voices in higher education. I am interested in all aspects of academic publishing, from peer review to production. I have been involved in designing, writing and editing various student-focused magazines and journals since 2015. I have experience teaching at all levels of undergraduate study.


  • Passed PRINCE2 Foundation exam.
  • Teaching Affiliate for Liberal Arts, University of Nottingham.
  • Hourly paid lecturer for English Language and Linguistics, De Montfort University.
  • Teaching Affiliate for English Language and Linguistics, University of Nottingham.
  • Research Assistant on the interdisciplinary Avian Influenza project.
  • Research Assistant on the interdisiplinary Coronavirus Discourses project.


  • Successfully applied to have the Journal of Languages, Texts & Society indexed in the Directory of Open Access Journals.
  • Co-organiser of a collaboration between Journey to Justice and the Discourse and Politics Seminar Series, focused on sharing the stories of lived experience activism with academics.
  • Teaching affiliate for the School of English, University of Nottingham (marking and feedback at UG level).
  • Guest lecturer on Corpus and Discourse Studies for the MA Corpus Linguistics module at the University of Nottingham.
  • Co-organiser of the Midlands4Cities Research Festival 2021.
  • Co-organiser of the Discourse and Politics Seminar Series 2021.
  • Student committee member, Linguistics Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
  • Blog editor, Linguistics Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
  • Issue Management Editor for the Journal of Languages, Texts and Society (Issue 5).
  • Middle-stage postgraduate research representative, Learning Community Forum (School of English).
  • Peer mentor to two postgraduate taught students in the School of English, University of Nottingham.
  • Managed the social media and Wordpress for the Discourse and Politics Seminar Series 2021 - a series I co-organised with a fellow M4C student.



Other Research Interests

  • Corpus linguistics (specifically CADS and key semantic domain analysis)
  • Critical discourse analysis (political and media discourses)
  • Identity construction
  • Nationalism; populism; migration discourses
  • Storytelling and narratives in interviews
  • "Lay discourses" about political events
  • Discursive and social exclusion; polarisation
  • Mixed methods and interdisciplinarity
  • Academic editing and publishing


  • Student membership, British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL).
  • Student membership, University Association for Contemporary European Studies (UACES).
  • Student membership, Political Studies Association (PSA).
  • Student membership, Linguistics Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (LAGB).
  • Individual membership, Council for European Studies (CES).

Teaching experience

Visiting Lecturer in Applied Linguistics, Birmingham City University (September 2022 - Present)

  • Teaching first-year students the Foundations of Language module, third year students Applied Sociolinguistics, and MA students Sociolinguistics

Teaching Affiliate for English Language and Linguistics, University of Nottingham, March - September 2022

  • Taught first-year students on Academic Community, second-year undergraduate students on Language in Society, and MA students on Sociolinguistics of Work
  • Marking formatives and undergraduate and MA work
  • Office hours for pastoral support and feedback on work
  • Supervised three MSc students with their dissertations on language and gender and language and advertising.

Hourly paid part-time lecturer for English Language and Linguistics, De Monfort University. Spring semester, 2022.

  • Teaching second-year and third-year students on the modules Semantics and Language, Mind and Culture
  • Lecture and seminar plans & delivery
  • Office hours for pastoral support and feedback on work
  • Marking work

Teaching Affiliate for Liberal Arts, University of Nottingham. Autumn semester, 2021-22.

  • Teaching first-year undergraduates on the core module Introduction to Liberal Arts
  • Marking undergraduate work
  • Office hours for pastoral support and feedback on work
  • Seminar plans

Teaching Affiliate for English Language and Linguistics, University of Nottingham. Summer term, 2021.

  • Marking undergraduate essays

Non-academic prizes and nominations


  • Fully-funded PhD in Applied Linguistics (Midlands4Cities, 2019-2023).
  • MA English Studies Scholarship (University of Nottingham School of English, in conjunction with the Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics, 2018-2019) . 
Academic awards 

  • University Prize (Awarded at my BA graduation in 2017).
  • Best Undergraduate Dissertation (School of English, University of Nottingham, 2017).
  • Best Student (School of English, University of Nottingham, 2017).
  • Bond Literary Essay Prize (School of English, University of Nottingham, 2017).
  • School of English Prize for the Best Single Honours Part I Student (2015-16).
Non-academic awards

  • Regional Award for Best Investigation in the Midlands (Student Publication Awards, Nov 2017).
  • Union Prize (University of Nottingham Students' Union, Jun 2017).
  • Best Magazine Design , Impact Magazine (Student Publication Awards, 2017).
  • Under my chiefship, Impact Magazine was nominated for 11 awards at the 2017 Student Publication Awards - a record for the magazine. The nominations included: Best Publication, Best Website, Best News Story, Best Reporter and Best Comment Piece.  
  • Best News Story (Student Publication Awards, 2017) 
  • Best Feature (Student Publication Awards, 2016).

Funding bids

  • Co-applicant: PRINCE2 Foundation Training, funded by Midlands4Cities. Awarded c. £15,000.