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Awkward states and regional organisations: The United Kingdom and Australia compared

Abstract

Both the United Kingdom and Australia have been studied by specialists in each region rather than by comparativists. This article seeks to fill this gap by examining the regional ‘awkwardness’ of the United Kingdom and Australia comparatively. Australia and Britain are ‘awkward’ states in their respective regions – Asia and Europe. This is clear in their approaches to institutions, economic policy, security and identity. We examine comparatively the role of power, institutions, economy, domestic politics and culture to see which mix best accounts for the awkward status of these two states. Through this comparison, this article demonstrates that the so-called ‘uniqueness’ of the United Kingdom in regionalism literature is in fact a nearly ‘universal’ phenomenon, insofar as many global regions include awkward states.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The EU, on this typology, is best considered as a region-state; ASEAN could be considered a regional community; and APEC fits best with the regional complex category.

  2. 2.

    For instance, Germany has often been more Atlanticist than France. Other member states have seen UK involvement and policy preferences as helpful to balance French interests. See Parsons, 2006, Janning, 2005.

  3. 3.

    In the past, this state of affairs has prevented the EU being considered a significant issue by voters at UK general elections; despite widespread popular Euroscepticism, the Conservative Party did not reap the rewards of a heavily anti-EU election campaign in 2001.

  4. 4.

    Eurobarometer, the EU’s regular opinion survey, shows that fewer UK citizens think the EU is beneficial for their member state than those of any other (27 per cent), and also display the highest level of distrust of the EU overall (64 per cent). Standard Eurobarometer 74, published February 2011; see http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb74/eb74_en.htm, accessed 28 September 2011.

  5. 5.

    One author of this article has encountered such a perception in many Asian countries privately.

  6. 6.

    The EU Bill includes a so-called ‘referendum lock’ on any future EU Treaty change, which transfers significant powers from the United Kingdom to the EU

  7. 7.

    The former Labour Security Minister Lord West caused a furore with his September 2011 remark about the United Kingdom’s global status that ‘We are not bloody Belgium or Denmark’. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15021503, accessed 28 September 2011.

  8. 8.

    The Daily Express, for example, runs an overt campaign for the United Kingdom to leave the EU.

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Correspondence to Philomena Murray.

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Murray, P., Warleigh-Lack, A. & He, B. Awkward states and regional organisations: The United Kingdom and Australia compared. Comp Eur Polit 12, 279–300 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1057/cep.2013.2

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Keywords

  • regionalism
  • regional integration
  • awkward partners
  • European Union
  • Asia Pacific