Britain's relationship with the European Union (EU) has been one of the most divisive issues of British politics over the last 50 years. Yet, the election of the Blair government in May 1997 intended to change this situation and marked a significant shift in the UK's European policies. Unlike his predecessors, such as Margaret Thatcher or John Major, Tony Blair wanted to adopt a more positive approach towards Europe. For him, Britain could not shape Europe unless [she] matters in Europe. In fact, this constructive Europeanism was the reflective of the trajectory first established in the late 1980s and early 1990s when under Neil Kinnock's leadership, the Labour Party underwent its transformation into a political party firmly committed to the European integration process. Indeed, the Labour fought the 1983 elections on the basis of a manifesto which condemned the impact of the European Communities within the UK. But this position ended up with a catastrophic defeat for the party. Hence, the Labour Party sought for modernization and shifted from being opposed to being in favour of the European integration.
[...] Bulmer, Simon, Home: the Blair Government's European Policy”. Bulmer, Simon, Lecture Notes 2006-2007. Fella, Stephano,” New Labour-New Europe? Parliamentary Affairs, (Oct. 2006) 621-37. Geddes, Andrew, The European Union and British Politics, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan George, Stephen, An Awkward Partner: Britain in the European Community, Oxford: Oxford University Press Grant, Charles, Can Britain Lead in Europe? London: Centre for European Reform Hughes, Kirsty, and Ed Smith, Labour, Same Old Britain? The Blair Government and European Treaty Reform,”, International Affairs, (Jan. 1998), 93-103. [...]
[...] Not only has about 60% of the British been constantly opposed to European Monetary Union but opposition to it reflected a serious economic concerns about the impact on taxes and unemployment.” Eurosceptism was also reinforced by the media. For instance, the Sun, in its front page once called Blair as the “most dangerous man in Britain” because he wanted abolish the pound”. Hence, Blair's second term has been quite different from his first one. Yet one can say that is was not proactive but reactive, since despite all the difficulties mentioned above, progresses have been accomplished, especially with the CAP reforms and devolution, and also in terms of environmental policy. Moreover, after the Convention on the Future of Europe (2001-1003), Blair (even if he became less enthusiastic about the European construction) agreed on a Constitutional Treaty and then later made a commitment to a referendum on the latter. [...]
[...] Andrew Geddes, The European Union and British Politics (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), p.90. Julie Smith, Missed Opportunity? New Labour's European Policy 1997- International Affairs, (Jul.2005), 81: p 703. Smith, “Opportunities,” Ibid Simon Bulmer, Lecture Notes 2006-2007. Simon Bulmer, ‘Constructive Abroad But Not Yet Constructed At Home: the Blair Government's European Policy” p.5 Fella, Geddes, European Charles Grant, Can Britain Lead in Europe? (London: Centre for European Reform, 1998), p.16. Bulmer, ‘Constructive,” Grant, Lead Kirsty Hughes and Ed Smith, Labour, Same Old Britain? The Blair [...]
[...] These difficulties ultimately forced Blair to modify his constructive engagement and to reduce his European objectives. Those difficulties became more important during Blair's second term although they first rose during his first one. For instance, Labour's defeat in the 1999 European elections reflected a change in British public opinion towards Europe. These elections were marked by a low turnout and also the elections of two MEPS' from the UKIP party. Moreover, the single currency was one of the major themes during UK's EU Presidency of 1998, but Britain's non participation in the Euro-zone “underlined the government's difficulties in playing a leading role in the The Second Term (2001-2005): Dealing with difficulties outside and inside the UK The changing position of the Blair government vis-à-vis the EU was predictable. [...]
[...] The date of this Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) was deliberately set for after the UK election “because of the negotiating obstructionism of the Major government and anticipation of it suffering and electoral defeat.” Hence, Blair's constructive engagement was first reflected in his support for a number of changes to treaty provisions” which were before him, rejected by his Conservative counterpart. On this basis, Blair agreed so sign the Maastricht Treaty's Social Chapter and agreed to consider the extension of Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) in limited areas which would be in Britain's interests. [...]
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