Historical and contemporary manifestations of ‘Global Britain’:
A case study of Thailand

  • Arunrat Jinda

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


After the European referendum in 2016, the UK government promoted the concept of ‘Global Britain’ to represent British foreign policy ambitions throughout the Brexit and post-Brexit periods. However, there has been much debate over what 'Global Britain' means for the UK's post-Brexit position in the world, and how the UK government would establish or preserve relationships with the EU and other countries in the Brexit and post-Brexit periods.

This study aims to explore historical and contemporary foreign policy relations between the UK and Thailand. A case study approach has been applied to analyse if and how foreign policy relations between the UK and Thailand have changed as the UK departs the EU within the ‘Global Britain’ narrative. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with thirty-four participants representing Thai elites and experts with specialised knowledge and expertise in Thai and UK relations, examining their perspectives and experiences related to the ‘Global Britain’ narrative and how the post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’ concept has influenced the relationship between the UK and Thailand. These narratives are then analysed with respect to historically located and realised in contemporary manifestations of concepts of informal empire. It demonstrates that the ‘Global Britain’ narrative in Thailand means cementing elite networks that have developed over the last four-hundred years as mutually beneficial relationships. These perspectives have dominated the ‘Global Britain’ concept, which focus on the legacy of British imperialism being both historically rooted and currently relevant in Thailand. The result of these partnerships is described by Evans (1979) as ‘dependent development’ within neo-colonialism. These dynamics were characteristic of semi-peripheral nations that still had relations with dominant countries and were able to pursue and accomplish intensive industrial development through local elites.

The research findings illustrate that the ‘Global Britain’ concept is failing. It is inconsistent with the British government’s ambition for a radical shift in relations with Thailand and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. It appears to be just a continuation of the concept of an ‘informal empire’, which is arguably the same approach the UK government has always wanted to adopt but could not achieve inside the EU. Therefore, the ‘Global Britain’ concept is shaped by informal imperial thinking. However, there is nothing new going on in Thai-UK relations beyond trade agreements. The findings suggest that the ‘Global Britain’ concept can be used in Thailand to strengthen Thai and British relations through cultural and social development but with little economic and political influence. This study contributed to knowledge and practice by demonstrating the legacy of the informal imperial approach as a model for Anglo-Thai foreign policy relationships. The incorporation of informal imperial legacy and dependent development into the post-Brexit concept of ‘Global Britain’ will help Thai and British policymakers and stakeholders, as well as those from other developing nations, in their study and understanding of contemporary and modern British policy.
Date of Award1 Nov 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMichael Snowden (Main Supervisor)

Cite this