Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version



Bruning, Lauren C. Coming and Going: Identity, Institutions, and the United Kingdom's Resistance to the European Union. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. March 2019.


Copyright Lauren Bruning 2019.


In 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, a decision widely known as ‘Brexit’. This analysis compares two competing theories – institution and identity – to explain why. Four historical events, chronologically ordered from 1945 to 2016, are examined with both identity and institution analysis to explain British integration and its subsequent withdrawal from the European Union. Through this analysis, one can conclude the United Kingdom’s decision to withdraw in 2016 stemmed from a variety of reasons, but each of these can be explained by identity (a sense of nationalism), or institution (EU relationships).

Nationalism around the world has increased exponentially in recent years, evolving from small grassroots factions into major political parties. This ideology has formed a sense of identity in the United Kingdom that differs from EU governance. British pride and disassociation from a European identity have also caused sociological differences that sparked and energized the Brexit movement.

The relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union is complex. The United Kingdom was never institutionalized with other member states to possess the same values, norms, or legal system, and historically, they have shown diverging interests and a rocky relationship.