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British exceptionalism: pride and prejudice and Brexit

Andrew J. Crozier ()
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Andrew J. Crozier: London Faculty of New York University

International Economics and Economic Policy, 2020, vol. 17, issue 3, No 3, 635-658

Abstract: Abstract The root cause of the current crisis in the United Kingdom is British Exceptionalism which assumed its classic form in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars. During the nineteenth century, the British state focused upon the creation of a global empire and by the 1890s was in a state of ‘splendid isolation’ with respect to Europe. Simultaneously, the rise of Germany meant that Britain could not ignore Europe. During the first half of the twentieth century, Britain became involved in two major wars, which to a considerable extent revolved around the need to curb German power. After the First World War, Britain wanted to focus upon her global interests and this was reflected in her reluctance to embrace integrationist initiatives such as the Briand Plan. Although the Second World War destroyed the basis of Britain’s imperium, the feeling that British superiority had saved the world only reinforced the sense of exceptionalism by adding to it a sense of ‘pride’. After 1945 British power steadily waned and the British state came increasingly under pressure from Washington to join the European Economic Community. The potential of Germany to dominate this grouping and British apprehension of such a development led to prejudice in respect of Germany which later transmitted itself into prejudice against Europe as a whole. Once inside the European Community, Britain accordingly became an awkward partner. Never entirely comfortable within the European Union, a secessionist movement grew which ultimately forced the referendum of 2016.

Keywords: Integration; Brexit; Economic history (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: F02 F15 N00 N44 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1007/s10368-020-00469-z

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