Listen free for 30 days

  • Britain Alone

  • The Path from Suez to Brexit
  • By: Philip Stephens
  • Narrated by: Sean Barrett
  • Length: 13 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Europe
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (105 ratings)

Listen with a free trial

One credit a month, good for any title to download and keep.
Unlimited listening to the Plus Catalogue - thousands of select Audible Originals, podcasts and audiobooks.
Exclusive member-only deals.
No commitment - cancel anytime.
Buy Now for £39.99

Buy Now for £39.99

Pay using card ending in
By completing your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and authorise Audible to charge your designated card or any other card on file. Please see our Privacy Notice, Cookies Notice and Interest-based Ads Notice.

Summary

In 1962 the American statesman Dean Acheson famously charged that Britain had lost an empire and failed to find a new role. Nearly 60 years later, the rebuke rings true again. Britain's postwar search for its place in the world has vexed prime ministers and government since the nation's great victory in 1945: the cost of winning the war was giving up the empire. 

After the humiliation of Anthony Eden's Suez expedition, Britain seemed for a time to have found an answer. Clinging to its self-image as a great island nation, it would serve as America's best friend while acknowledging its geography by signing up to membership of the European Union. Never a comfortable balancing act, for 40 years it appeared to work. In 2016 David Cameron called the Brexit referendum and blew it up. 

Award-winning journalist Philip Stephens paints a fascinating portrait of a nation struggling to reconcile its waning power with past glory. Drawing on decades of personal contact and interviews with senior politicians and diplomats in Britain, the United States and across the capitals of Europe, Britain Alone is a vivid account of a proud nation struggling to admit it is no longer a great power. It is an indispensable guide to how we arrived at the state we are in.

©2021 Philip Stephens (P)2021 Faber Audio

More from the same

What listeners say about Britain Alone

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    76
  • 4 Stars
    19
  • 3 Stars
    9
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    0
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    59
  • 4 Stars
    19
  • 3 Stars
    5
  • 2 Stars
    6
  • 1 Stars
    4
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    73
  • 4 Stars
    15
  • 3 Stars
    4
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    1

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent book, very tired performer

The book is brilliant; a must read for anyone interested in British history and politics. It's very well written, interesting and captivating. But I had to buy the book and read it myself. Audible's performer made me so nervous, he sounded like a very tired chainsmoker having a bad day. I couldn't focus on the book, I only hoped he would survive the next sentence.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A fabulously well written and narrated history

A brilliant analysis if the history if the UK from Suez to Brexit. A searing ibdictment of Britain's unrealistic aspirations throughout this period and of Brexit and Johnson at its conclusion. A must read for those interested in the realities of the UK's international dilemma in 2021

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Very entertaining, good fun but all wrong.

This was a really enjoyable and fun read for me but not for the reasons the author would agree with.
A story that goes from the Shame of suez to the joy and achievement of once again becoming the only genuine fully democratic sovereign country in the whole of Western Europe.
If the author had only waited a few months this book would probably not being published. Practically all the reasoning and arguments, all the prophecies of project fear have failed to materialise in the following months. This must record for a book to go out of date and be overtaken by events. Literally as the book was published it’s projected hardships were disproven. That is what made it a fun read for me, the predicted disasters just did not happen.
Far from the UK becoming weak and ungovernable it is the organisation we left that is struggling.
A wide selection of selective information, very cleverly chosen snippets of information pieced together to strengthen his view that we were mad to leave. Flitting back and forth through the years in order to suit the authors narrative. It is biased, yes, it is very pro remain and pro eu, in which it finds nothing bad or wrong. I could not recall a single sentence stating something good about Britain. Neither a single negative about the eu despite its many issues. There is a naive view of how powerful and mighty the eu is on the world stage and an overlooked, belittled and alone UK , trying to find a role in the world.
This book is part history, part historical fiction.
The author seems to believe that the UK is unique in being the only country on Earth wanting to maintain or increase its importance and influence. Blimey, look at France. This is great fun when looking at it now, after just a few months and probably even more fun in future as things develop both in the UK and also the EU.
Quickly and easily brushing over the dark days of the remainer Parliament as if it was the last chance to save ourselves by becoming a sensible colony of the eu and forgoing all thought of deciding things for ourselves. 
Written and released too early to state the NHS is now getting an extra £20 billion a year, more than the weekly figure on the bus. Too early for the UK successful AZ vaccination program, the 70 free trade deals or even AUKUS and the diminishment of France. Too early to see that the city of London has increased its workforce, or how multinational businesses are investing in the UK and even relocating their headquarters here. But then again, even if he did know he would not have included them.
Look at our rapid and pre invasion help given to Ukraine while the eu twiddled its thumbs.
I could not help but chuckle when the whole list of the prophecies of doom were read and yet none have occurred. 
This is a really fun read for pro brexit readers, they, like me will find it bizarre but entertaining and at the same time smile at trying to understand what the remain side thought.
It always struck me as odd that remain accused leavers of wanting to rebuild an empire yet wanting to stay in the eu that was actually building one.
So, it is well and cleverly written and very well narrated but flawed. But that is what now makes it so funny and enjoyable. It is a real eye opener into what Remainer’s think of Britain and leave voters, and boy, have they got us wrong.

If you are interested in the EU and Brexit (causes of) then I recommend three other books. The Great Deception. This sovereign isle and Eurotragedy.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Something good has come out of Brexit

And it was this book. Informative and entertaining. Reality and fantasy not the same thing

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Absolutely outstanding

This puts Brexit into the context of 60 years prior to the vote of 2016 &, time & while listening to it, the litany of bungling, un-thought out decisions & incompetence made me want to cover my eyes & ears time & again. This is a superb listen.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful tour de force

This is an excellent book, full of insights. It frames Brexit very successfully within the context of post-Imperial policy and perceptions. It is unputdownable.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Liked this a lot. Very good contemporary history.

Interesting to listen to Britain Alone together with Steve Richards audiobooks and Churchills Shadow.

They complement one another. The story is coherent and for me convincing and Sean Barrett invariably reads well.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Survey of GB's Postwar Relationship with EU

Britain Alone covers the major developments in Britain's relationship with the Europe in the context of the former's search for a new role following the end of Empire alongside its desire to maintain an old role of global power. The narrator sounds tired, which helps underscore what seems like the author's feeling of quiet exasperation and anger at the developments detailed. This style of narration won't be to everyone's taste, and its definitely one to preview before buying. I listened at 1.5x speed. Britain Alone makes the case for GB's failure to fully come to terms with its diminished standing in the world from 1945 and its need to take the potential of the EU more seriously. Remainers will shake their heads in agreement at the failure of successive governments to accept the inevitable--which the author describes often as resulting from a combination of arrogance and insecurity. I would guess that Leavers might do the same at the author's talking about Brexit as if the British electorate had nothing to do with it, and was the result of Cameron's foolishness and Tory backbencher's zealotry. There's also something unpersuasive about the stress that GB needs to realise it is no longer powerful in the ways it once was, just because it involves psychological pain, as the author admits, but offers no new positive vision in its place. Would this ever be a winning strategy, even if it accurately reflected reality?

This was an engaging title covering a lot of material in usually accessible ways (the stuff about the ERM was always going to go over my head). Recommended to those wanting an overview of how we got from the failed last hurrah of 56 and 2016.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Excellent, but repetitive at points.

if you're a brexit fan and don't want anything to question your brexit vote, this will be uncomfortable (but essential) reading.
The history lesson is informative, if depressing.
The saddest thing to realise is just how closed UK right wing thinking currently is. More disasters await us; and that makes a must read.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating, but the narrator sounds like death

This is a fascinating, impeccably researched and well-written book, but I'm deleting it from my library and will be buying either a paper or pixel version instead.

It's the narrator. I gave him four hours to clear his throat and have a good cough, but enough is enough. His reading is *so* gutteral and *so* ill-sounding, that I couldn't bear it any longer. I'm amazed that professional audiobook creators could have listened to the playback and thought that they had something of value.

Plus: the terrible accents. Audiobook editors: please, no more accents of any kind, *ever*. Why do they think the listener will lose interest if the narrator just uses their natural voice? I wince every time I hear a Brit narrator attempt to do an American or regional British accent.

A real shame.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Anonymous User
  • Anonymous User
  • 09-07-22

narration is awful

story I great but the narration makes the book almost impossible to listen to

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Nicholas Thompson
  • Nicholas Thompson
  • 13-09-21

UK voters *should* have been familiar with this material before BREXIT

Covers the English political and economic landscape over the last few decades. From Suez to Brexit is the tagline but it becomes difficult to disassociate much of the early period from the second world war and especially from the economic collapse of the British economy, caused in large part by the US insistence that Britain should dismantle her imperial trading relationships, largely so the US could leverage them for their own benefit.

Covers the split between a transatlantic leaning policy and a Europe centric policy. The irony of maintaining a massively expensive nuclear deterrent that is neither independent noe cost effective, purely for “prestige” while at the same time running down conventional naval, air defence and ground based forces is well covered.

The author is highly critical of recent leaders from Thatcher onwards and it does seem the dumbing down of the British political class has had increasingly adverse unintended consequences. In particular Blair and Cameron are both deservedly pilloried.

I still am at a loss how the English decided that going it alone could be preferable to an economic and political alliance with Europe and the author repeatedly points out that a Britain without influence is of no use whatsoever to her military masters in the USA.

Really well written, the events gibe with my own recollection of this time period, from the 1960’s onward. The author appears to have no axe to grind: in a sense that makes the content of this work more devastating. What is somewhat sad is that this material was well known to most people who were paying attention, how the UK got into the Brexit fix is a mystery. The mendacity of populism and weak leaders is covered superbly by the author.

The narration is clipped and at first seems almost too neutral however I feel the narrator did the material a service. Some accents were applied to quotations from the principals, there are not overdone and are subtle enough as to not impinge.

An utterly depressing, yet compelling and factual, description of lions led by donkeys.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for O. Buraimoh
  • O. Buraimoh
  • 28-08-21

The most articulate narrative on Britain’s contemporary history leading to Brexit

Just the most superbly researched and well-written story on Britain’s political and economic journey leading to Brexit. This is just what I needed to try to make sense of the political and economic events of the last few years.