The Second World War gave impetus to the idea of European unity. A view developed that only by the creation of some form of European federation would Europe enjoys a permanent peace. After WW2, European states focussed on national reconstruction, whereas Britain had a globalist perspective. This difference of interests produced a discrepancy between Great Britain and the other countries in the idea of integration in an institutionalized Europe. Winston Churchill characterized British international interest in terms of three interconnected circles: Empire and Commonwealth, Europe, and the United States. The US generally came first, Europe always last. The awkward partner thesis is a widespread theoretical framework which explains why Britain has been called a semi-detached member of the European Union. The argument advanced here is that the awkward partner thesis presupposes a negative behaviour by UK governments in relation to their European counterparts. How accurate is this thesis?
[...] Churchill's enumeration of the four pillars of this compartmented reality (USA, URSS, Europe and the British Empire) portrayed well how Britain detached itself as a potential European power. Insular Britain, despite its active role in the war, did not witness the conflict as directly as the continent did and so never quite shared this integration project that wanted to go beyond economical and commercial affairs. In 1954, the British were invited to the post-Messina discussions, but they saw no convincing reasons to alter their position. [...]
[...] This is a classic example of Britain not understanding the integrationalist imperative. The point of the single market programme was to foster increased economic activity and free trade, but also linked to this was the political integration and EMU (Single Currency). The Single European Act of 1985 was about creating a closer Europe. This was an exercise in functional integration; Mrs Thatcher had said afterwards that she would not have signed had she understood this. She started becoming anti-European towards the end of her tenure in office and was increasing vocal about the dangers of European Federalism, epitomised in her No speech. [...]
[...] In Britain, some people fear that Europe is set on an inexorable path to a centralised super state, but concerns about the way Europe is heading are shared among the citizens of all member states. In new Labour's view the old debate between a federal Europe and a nation state is dead and gone. They reject totally a centralised super state. Undoubtedly, Britons are among the most euro-sceptic citizens in Europe. For Britain, Europe is perceived as endangering the 'special relationship' with America and thus rather seen as reducing foreign policy options. [...]
[...] Britain did not join in 1958 for these reasons: British trade was still predominantly with the Empire; Britain agreed with goals 1 and but not the British economy was still strong and a common external tariff would be very damaging to British interests; Britain also had closer cultural ties to the US, so it made more sense to concentrate upon the American relationship; British nationalism and the ‘little Englander' mentality. From 1958 to 1973: Why did Britain change its mind at this point? [...]
[...] Labour Government, from 1997-present The appearance of being European The 1997 elections brought New-labour and a more European Britain but this was not a radical turning point in the way Britain perceives Europe. The divisions in public opinion, on the political parties and a Murdoch- owned press obligated Tony Blair to have a very cautious approach concerning the recommendable level of integration (exe: decision not to risk a referendum; Britain not part of the “cradle of euro” countries). New Labour is committed to constructive engagement in Europe. [...]
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