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Scientific article


On safer ground? The emergence and evolution of ‘Global Britain’

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Why did Theresa May’s government introduce the narrative about ‘Global Britain’, and how did this narrative evolve and manifest itself in UK foreign policy discourse in the ensuing years? We make the case that Brexit distressed the United Kingdom’s foreign policy identity, and that the ‘Global Britain’ narrative emerged as a means to consolidate that identity—at a time marked by uncertainty and political turmoil. Scholarship on ontological security has theorized how states employ narratives to restore and stabilize their identities when they become ontologically insecure. It has not sufficiently addressed how these narratives evolve, and the conditions under which they come to resonate with key audiences. We suggest that identity consolidating narratives are more effective when they are anchored in familiar spaces and contexts—what we here call ‘home turfs’. We show how filling ‘Global Britain’ with content constituted a process of moving from existential anxiety about the country’s future role, to anchoring UK foreign policy in and around such ‘home turfs’. Tracing the emergence and evolution of the ‘Global Britain’ narrative in official UK discourse, we find that ‘Global Britain’ gradually homed in on two secure narrative bases: first, security and defence; and second, the Anglosphere and Euro-Atlantic.
  • Published year: 2023
  • DOI:
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Page count: 18
  • Language: English
  • Volume: 99
  • Booklet: 6
  • Journal: International Affairs


  • Defence and security
  • Trade
  • Foreign policy
  • Europe
  • Governance