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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

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Publication date2018
Host publicationDoing Politics: Discursivity, performativity and mediation in political discourse
EditorsMichael Kranert, Geraldine Horan
PublisherJohn Benjamins
Number of pages32
ISBN (print)9789027263148
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Publication series

NameDiscourse Approaches to Politics, Society and Culture
PublisherJohn Benjamins
ISSN (Print)1569-9463


More than five years have passed since former British Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a much acknowledged and controversial speech on 23 January 2013, in respect to the British relationship with the European Union (EU). Europe and the EU are now, of course, facing different challenges than five 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, the 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 23 June 2016, which resulted in a tiny majority wanting to leave the EU (“Brexit”). Of course, there is no clear causal connection between the 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.