This course will introduce you to important concepts of international relations by examining Britain’s dynamic relationship with the European Union. The course will begin with a brief review of the United Kingdom’s role in World War II. That war and its devastation provides the backdrop against which the European Union developed. The EU’s development illustrates how states seek to promote international cooperation to counter the tendency of the international system to produce international conflict and war. Britain’s initial reluctance to joining the EU, its subsequent embrace of the EU (but not the Euro), and the current turmoil around its exit from the EU nicely demonstrate the deep and ongoing tension states face between the desire to resolve shared problems and a resistance to relinquishing sovereignty in that endeavor.
This course will focus on three major international issue areas: trade, human rights and migration, and environmental protection. Understanding who gains and loses under conditions of free trade (when states are members of the EU) and protectionism (if the UK leaves the EU) helps explain changes in the UK-EU relationship over time. The “spillover” of the EU’s economic integration into robust cooperation and regulation with respect to human rights and environment, especially in the realm of climate change, illustrates exactly the dynamics many scholars expect of international institutions.