The British Self and Continental Other: A Discourse Analysis of the United Kingdom's relationship with Europe
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This thesis analyses how the British discourse on Europe has evolved over the past forty years. Prime Minister David Cameron’s commitment to hold a referendum on European Union membership in 2017, should his part win the next general election, was a major political milestone. The thesis therefore examines the changes and continuities in this discourse over three key periods: the 1975 referendum on the UK’s continued membership of the European Economic Community, the 1992-3 debates on ratification of the Maastricht Treaty and the 2013 proto-referendum debates. Using a poststructuralist discourse-analytical approach, I analyse how political and media voices seek to delineate a British sense of self from a Continental other. I also address the rising prominence of immigration issues within the British discourse on Europe. I found that issues of sovereignty and democracy were a consistent feature across the three periods under analysis, with Eurosceptics seeking to frame the EU and its predecessors as anti-democratic and a threat to British sovereignty. The consistent divide between a British self and Continental other over the forty years under analysis has been strongly reinforced by the increasing prominence of anti-immigration rhetoric within the discourse. Overall, I note that the impact of the Eurosceptics’ discursive campaign is likely to be significant in terms of how a referendum in 2017 might be decided.