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The Two Sides of Brexit

Two opposing minds bring historical context to this divided issue

This Sovereign Isle

Robert Tombs

Signed first edition

Tombs’s opening chapter, putting Britain’s relationship with Europe into a wider historical context, offers more insights than entire shelves of rival Brexit books.

Geography comes before history. Islands cannot have the same history as continental plains. The United Kingdom is a European country, but not the same kind of European country as Germany, Poland or Hungary. For most of the 150 centuries during which Britain has been inhabited it has been on the edge, culturally and literally, of mainland Europe.

In this succinct book, Tombs shows that the decision to leave the EU is historically explicable - though not made historically inevitable - by Britain's very different historical experience, especially in the twentieth century, and because of our more extensive and deeper ties outside Europe. He challenges the orthodox view that Brexit was due solely to British or English exceptionalism: in choosing to leave the EU, the British, he argues, were in many ways voting as typical Europeans.

Britain Alone

Philip Stephens

How might we celebrate Britain's undoubted strengths while accepting that we have slipped from the top table? How can we act as a great nation while no longer pretending to be a great power? How might we be European and global?

In 1962 the American statesman Dean Acheson famously charged that Britain had lost an empire and failed to find a new role. Nearly sixty years later the rebuke rings true again. Britain's postwar search for its place in the world has vexed prime ministers and government since the nation's great victory in 1945: the cost of winning the war was giving up the empire.

Award-winning journalist Philip Stephens paints a fascinating portrait of a nation struggling to reconcile its waning power with past glory. Drawing on decades of personal contact and interviews with senior politicians and diplomats in Britain, the United States and across the capitals of Europe, Britain Alone is a vivid account of a proud nation struggling to admit it is no longer a great power.