An Increasingly Awkward Partner? Images of the EU in the Brexit Debate

  • Abstract:

    Euroscepticism has notably been on the rise across the European Union (EU), particularly in the context of the Eurozone crisis, as evidenced in particular by the dramatic success of Eurosceptic parties in the 2014 EP election. However, Euroscepticism in Britain, which has been described as the EU’s ‘awkward partner’, and as ‘semi-detached’ from the EU has deep roots. It has long tended to be sceptical towards supranational integration in particular, leading the country, for instance, to delay applying for EC membership until the 1960s, and, subsequently, to a series of opt-outs from a wide range of policies including the Schengen agreement, EU social policy and the adoption of the Euro. However, Britain’s ‘Euroawkwardness’ appears to have come to a head recently in the light of the upcoming referendum, due to take place on 23 June 2016, where the British people will be asked to vote on whether they want their country to remain in or leave the EU . Interestingly, there is no clear division between the ‘remain’ and ‘leave’ camps along party lines, with politicians from both the dominant Conservative and Labour parties found in both groups. On this basis, using Foreign Policy Discourse Analysis, a form of discourse analysis based on Foucault’s conception of discourse, the paper aims to place the current discourse on Brexit in the broader context of the dominant British discourse on state and nation and Europe. To this end, the paper analyses the discourse of both campaigns by focusing on speeches and articles of cross-party prominent politicians from both groups as well as both campaigns’ manifestos.