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"We have the character of an island nation": a discourse-historical analysis of David Cameron's "Bloomberg Speech" on the European Union

Research output: Working paper

Publication date2016
PublisherEuropean University Institute
Number of pages33
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Publication series

NameEUI Working Paper
ISSN (electronic)1028-3625


More than three years have passed since former British Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a much acknowledged and controversial speech on 23rd January 2013, in respect to the British relationship with the European Union. Europe and the European Union (EU) are now, of course, facing different challenges than three years ago. The contrasting national and transnational identities which emerge in the so-called Bloomberg Speech (BS) imply a nationalistic body politics which constructs the United Kingdom and England as separate entities contrasted to "the continent", i.e. Europe. Hence, BS oscillates between two extremes, in its attempt to alternatively observe maximum distance to the EU and some proximity to its economic policies. Moreover, both the topoi of urgency and threat/danger are appealed to – warning the EU that it would suffer under the loss of the United Kingdom; but also warning British voters that Brexit would damage their future and prosperity. This speech can be perceived as the starting point for the referendum on June 23rd, 2016 – which resulted in a tiny majority wanting to leave the EU ('Brexit'). Of course, there is no clear causal connection between BS and Brexit; but many arguments of the "remain and leave campaigns" can be traced to the BS; as well as the huge ambivalence framing Cameron's position towards the EU.