Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Government Dept.


Milan Babik

Second Advisor

Jennifer Yoder


The announcement of Brexit on June 23, 2016 shocked Europe as well as the greater global community. Political scientists continue to debate the causes of Brexit, but this paper argues that the debate over sovereignty, particularly the tension between national and pooled sovereignties, played a substantial role in the outcome of the referendum. This paper evaluates the extent to which the Brexit referendum was a rejection of pooled sovereignty and a reprioritization of national sovereignty. This paper conducts a discourse analysis on 4109 sources from the Leave and Remain campaigns, which were all assessed for the use of nineteen terms associated with national or pooled sovereignty. My data analysis indicates that the Leave campaign was representative of national sovereignty but the Remain campaign was not representative of pooled sovereignty. Therefore, I argue that Brexit was a signal to the British government to reclaim national sovereignty, but not necessarily a complete rejection of the EU system. These results highlight the unpredictable and even confusing nature of EU referendums as well as the persistent difficulties of synthesizing a national and European system of government and sense of identity.


brexit, sovereignty, national sovereignty, pooled sovereignty, EU, referendums