‘We are all children of the Commonwealth’: political myth, metaphor and the transnational Commonwealth Family in Brexit political discourse

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceCommunication

In the UK House of Lords on March 16, 2017, Lord Popat of Harrow fondly recalled his fellow Conservative colleague Lord Howell of Guildford once saying that “Europe is our region, America our ally, and the Commonwealth our family.” Later in the same speech he punctuated this sentiment, declaring “We are all children of the Commonwealth.” These examples represent a small sample of the many direct and implied references to The Commonwealth as a family of nations and peoples that have characterized the political discourse surrounding Brexit. At various points in the country’s history, individuals and groups have promoted a transnational identity linking Britain with its empire and later The Commonwealth, usually in times of actual or perceived crisis. While much scholarship has examined the family metaphor in relation to the construction of national identities, less attention has been given to broader forms of identification. This paper examines familial references to The Commonwealth as a means of reassuring the British people as the country navigates itself out of the European Union, by helping them to imagine a new (and old) way of belonging in the world. It does so through an analysis fifty-three individual speeches given over the course of two days of parliamentary debates on the future of UK-Commonwealth trade relations in early 2017. In addition to a close reading of the documents, the data analysis software NVivo is also being used to identify patterns and relationships in the content and the sources of the ‘Commonwealth Family’ metaphor in post-EU referendum political discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year23 May 2018
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2018
EventAIAS Symposium: Family, Memory and Identity - Aarhus, Denmark
Duration: 23 May 201824 May 2018


ConferenceAIAS Symposium: Family, Memory and Identity
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ID: 141594079