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United Kingdom: In and out of Europe

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The set of principles underlying Britain's attitude towards Europe.
    1. Keeping a balance of power.
    2. Meddling only when it is necessary.
    3. Defending Britain's self-interest.
  3. Historical evolution of Britain's Relationship with Europe.
    1. The old dispensation endures from 1945 to 1958.
    2. The European temptation from 1958 to 1973.
    3. The fraught Anglo-Euro relations with Europeans 1972-2000.
    4. The Thatcher period 1979-1990.
    5. John Major.
    6. Tony Blair and Europe.
  4. Britain's Europe is a hodge-podge of contradictory principles.
    1. Britain opposes federalism.
    2. Britain sits on a fence but does mind not being a leader.
    3. Britain is not averse to shifting alliances.
    4. Britain believes in 'A La Carte' Europe.
    5. Britain is favourable to enlargement.
    6. Britain having problems with a written European constitution but accepts the ECHR.
  5. The current situation in Britain today mean for Europe.
  6. Conclusion.
  7. Bibliography.

The United Kingdom has always been in and out of Europe. Such posturing is in keeping with a series of mantras [religious beliefs] upon which Britain's policy towards Europe is predicated. The latter have never been really challenged in the last century. Britain's Europe is a paradoxical set of conflicting principles from which that polity does not seem to be prepared to depart. Britain's relationship to Europe is informed by three fundamental attitudes ? first keeping the balance of power between the European countries, second meddling only when necessary, and third defending the British self-interest. The concept of balance of power stems from a rather muscular philosophy linked to a tradition of insular aloofness continental Europe. And yet, Britain was going to abandon its policy of splendid isolation in the course of the 19th century. The global reach of (its) Empire forced Great-Britain to take an interest in European affairs if only to watch what its colonizing rivals were doing in Africa and elsewhere, for London still had relatively little ambition to be a mover and shaker in continental European affairs, though it liked to give a lead in the comity of nations: its primary preoccupation concerning Europe was to ensure that the latter did not become a source of trouble or danger for her empire and, ultimately, for herself.

[...] Being brought up in left-wing polity and being affiliated to the Scottish Labour party, he belongs to this tradition of the hard-left of the Labour party which sees Brussels Europe as a 'white man's club'. This segment of the Labour party has always been nostalgic of the Commonwealth. This shows at the edges. Brown likes to protray himself as the staunch advocate of the Third Word. He has been a supporter of Third World debt reduction for some time. This ties up with his religious education, he is the do-gooder, and with this kind of political education, he has developed a soft spot for new and old Commonwealth countries. [...]


[...] No wonder then that Britain's European policy over the years has shown no consistency Britain's Europe is a hodge-podge of contradictory principles Britain opposes federalism British governments usually prefer intergovernmental solutions and yet on the whole they have far fewer problems in implementing EU directives than many other EU member states. The strong legitimist [belief in being reasonable and law-abiding, and not in being an advocate of the Bourbons] strand in the British elite political culture might explain this. From day one, British governments and courts accepted the primacy of EU legislation. [...]


[...] Mrs Thatcher was also becoming unhappy about socialism being re-introduced through the back door [In the famous 1988 Bruges speech, Thatcher declared that "We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them reimposed at a European level, with a European superstate exercising a new dominance from Brussels." ] as she realised that the Single European Act gave Europe powers in many new areas such as social policy and the environment. Europe played a big part in bringing Mrs Thatcher down just as it would do with John Major. [...]

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