Though the UK is weaker than the EU on key metrics of bargaining power, the British approach to the first phase of the Brexit negotiations has been characterised by hard bargaining. Efforts to explain this puzzle have focused on constraints at the domestic level, but have not engaged with the cultural sources of bargaining style highlighted by constructivist scholars. Drawing on a series of interviews, this article suggests a number of cultural factors have influenced the UK's decision to adopt a hard bargaining strategy, including the country's majoritarian institutional culture, its weak socialisation into the EU, overstated perceptions of its own capabilities, the prevailing conservative political ideology, and a longstanding preference for 'divide and rule' diplomatic strategies. Our findings suggest not only that the UK’s choice of negotiating strategy is sub-optimal but also that theories of bargaining need to pay attention to cultural factors predisposing actors to particular strategies.
- bargaining theory
- United Kingdom