A magisterial and profoundly perceptive survey of Britain's post-war role on the global stage, from Suez to Brexit.
'Admirably lucid and measured, as well as studded with sharp pen portraits of the key players, Britain Alone gives us the fullest long-run political and diplomatic narrative yet of Britain's fateful, tragi-comic road to Brexit.'
'Philip Stephens has produced that rare thing - an instant classic. Britain Alone is the codebook we need to unravel the six and a half decades between Suez and Brexit, and Stephens is a master of historical codebreaking.'
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.
After the humiliation of Anthony Eden's Suez expedition, Britain seemed for a time to have found an answer. Clinging to its self-image as a great island nation, it would serve as America's best friend while acknowledging its geography by signing up to membership of the European Union. Never a comfortable balancing act, for forty years it appeared to work. In 2016 David Cameron called the Brexit referendum and blew it up.
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. It is an indispensable guide to how we arrived at the state we are in.
'Compelling, informative and readable.' FINANCIAL TIMES
'Fascinating.' IRISH TIMES
'A magnificent, exhilarating book, laying bare the contradictions, misunderstandings and delusions that led Britain first to build a bridge across the Channel and then bulldoze it . . . The book is much more than Brexit.'
A diminished U.K. has been too standoffish toward Europe and too subservient to the U.S., argues this probing study of post-WWII British foreign policy. Financial Times journalist Stephens (Politics and the Pound) explores Britain's uneasy, decades-long adjustment to the loss of its empire and global power, exemplified by the 1956 Suez Canal crisis, during which the British military, along with French and Israeli forces, tried to reoccupy the canal after Egypt nationalized it; the Brits retreated when a disapproving President Eisenhower cut off financing and oil. In response, Britain shored up its "special relationship" with the U.S., which led to Margaret Thatcher's cooperation with Ronald Reagan's anti-communist policies and Tony Blair's ill-advised participation in the Iraq War, while also seeking to re-energize the country's economy and geopolitical clout by joining the European Union, a project that was undermined by nationalist and imperial nostalgia. Delivering a caustic brief against Brexit, Stephens argues that the vote was rooted in "insecurity" and "dog-whistle racism" and will leave Britain economically weaker and "marooned." Buttressed by Stephens's firm grasp of parliamentary politics and elegant prose, this erudite yet accessible history uncovers the agonizing trade-offs that flow from simplistic economic and political nostrums. Photos. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, the Wylie Agency.