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Rebordering Britain & Britons after Brexit

Americanising Brexit Britain's Welfare State?


Will the British welfare state revert to an Americanisation trajectory or retain features of the European model after April 2019? After a period of historically prolonged austerity and substantial working age welfare reform, with the UK facing yet another renegotiation of the social contract in a post-Brexit world, the question of whether there remains space for an alternative to the `American' model is of crucial importance. We argue that there has been a blurring of differences across the American and European welfare states in terms of working age benefits, as most countries have adopted aspects of work-based conditionality reforms, which attach the receipt of benefits to the active pursuit of work and, to varying extents, the underlying politics of US welfare reform, where there are large coalitions supportive of more punitive policies towards low-income adults and minorities. These trends are taking place against the backdrop of a second major shift: increasing restrictions on benefits for immigrants. This double narrowing of the welfare state, making benefits conditional for citizens and excluding those who are not citizens, seemingly sets the agenda for a more restrictive post-Brexit welfare state. The experience of the last two decades suggests, however, that the adoption of the American model has not been wholesale; steering a middle path between punitive conditional American benefits and more traditionally generous universal benefits is on the agenda across advanced welfare states.

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Political Quarterly


Jane Gingrich (United Kingdom)
Desmond King (United Kingdom)

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