British foreign policy after Brexit: losing Europe and finding a role

Kai Oppermann, Ryan Beasley, Juliet Kaarbo

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4 Citations (Scopus)
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British foreign policy stands at a turning point following the 2016 ‘Brexit’ referendum. Drawing on role theory, we trace the UK’s efforts to establish new foreign policy roles as it interacts with concerned international actors. We find that the pro-Brexit desire to ‘take back control’ has not yet translated into a cogent foreign policy direction. In its efforts to avoid adopting the role of isolate, the UK has projected a disoriented foreign policy containing elements of partially incompatible roles such as great power, global trading state, leader of the Commonwealth, regional partner to the EU, and faithful ally to the US. The international community has, through processes of socialization and alter-casting, largely rejected these efforts. These role conflicts between the UK and international actors, as well as conflicts among its different role aspirations, has pressed UK policies towards its unwanted isolationist role, potentially shaping its long-term foreign policy orientation post-Brexit.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Relations
VolumeOnline First
Early online date17 Jul 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Jul 2019


  • Brexit
  • British foreign policy
  • Role conflict
  • Role theory


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