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Awkward States and Regional Organisations: The UK and Australia Compared

Alex Warleigh-Lack, Baogang He and Philomena Murray

Both the UK and Australia have experienced difficulties with engaging in regional integration. The UK hasfamously been labelled by Stephen George as an 'awkward partner' in the EU context, with other member statesas well as the UK itself often questioning Britain's economic, political and cultural closeness to the rest of the EUin the face of its transatlantic ties and allegedly 'special relationship' with Washington. Australian policy towardsregional organisations in South East Asia and the Asia-Pacific has also been equivocal about regional integration,championing the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) as a means of reorienting itself towards Asiabut always with the danger of being considered a proxy for the US by other nations in the region. Yet morerecently Australia has proposed a new regional architecture for Asia. This paper compares the UK and Australiaas 'awkward' states in regional integration, tracing their respective positions on three key 'material' issues ofregional integration - institutions, economic policy and security - as well as the more ideational issues ofbelongingness and identity. It debates which mix of material and ideational factors best accounts for thisdifference of the UK and Australia from the mainstream in their respective regions. These conclusions are thenused to generate hypotheses for future comparative research.

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