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Britain is widely regarded as the ' awkward partner ' in Europe. How accurate is this assessment?

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  1. UK and the European Community: the problem of the integration
  2. Historical review of Britain an de European Union, from 1950 to these days
  3. Britain, E.E.U.U. and the European Community

?We have our own dreams and our own tasks. We are in Europe, but not part of it. We are linked, but not combined. We are interested and associated, but not integrated.?

Winston Churchill's famous quote aptly describes Britain's approach to European integration since the inception of the European Union in the 1950s. Churchill emphasized that although he was ?not opposed to a European Federation', he ?never thought that Britain or the British Commonwealth should become an integral part.' Churchill's attitude towards the European Union has been imitated by many of the Prime Ministers that followed him. Britain's relationship towards European integration has generally been a reluctant union, supporting free trade and mutually beneficial cooperation, while attempting to distance itself from economic and cultural ?unity' within Europe. In the same way, Keynes wrote in 1919: ?England still stands outside Europe. Europe's voiceless tremors do not reach England. Europe is apart and England is not a part of it.? This statement also highlights the fact that by the end of the First World War, Britain was considered to be ?in Europe but not part of Europe?.

After World War Two, Britain saw Europe as a liability, insofar as its special relations with the USA provided it more prestige. Nevertheless, in 1973, Britain joined the Union. But, only a year after being accepted into the European Union, Britain was regarded as an ?awkward partner?, a reputation that still remains today. However, after more than thirty years it can still be described as the ?awkward partner?. Britain remains out of the EMU whereas most of European States already belong to the Euro zone. The Constitution was also rejected whereas Spain and Germany accepted it. Britain keeps being one of the most important State that seems to slow the integration down, and above all its supranational position.

[...] Overall, if it is true that the richest, the youngest, the best educated and a major part of the party elites, appear gradually conquered by the European integration processes, the public opinion continues to show reluctance in abandoning the pound. In one general trace, British diplomacy and policies towards the EU have always defended inter-governmental approaches to the detriment of supranational ones. Britain has, on the one hand, been constantly having difficulties to reconcile the thirst for a large and appetizing market and, on the other hand, the maintenance of its national particularities and privileges. [...]


[...] When the American and the Commonwealth clutches failed, the UK never felt home? in the European community. Until this cycle is broken, Britain's status as the awkward partner of Europe looks set to continue. Nowadays, many of the new member countries could also be seen as ?awkward partners?. In a style reminiscent of Britain's Conservative prime ministers, heads of government of these countries often present themselves as ?defenders? against a Franco-German plot. Maybe it would mean that Britain could be no longer regarded as the only awkward partner? Bibliography - Black, [...]

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