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

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  1. Introduction
  2. Britain's attitude towards Europe post WW2
  3. The situation during the period of Cold War
  4. Impact of the success of EEC
  5. British diplomacy and policies towards the EU
  6. Conclusion
  7. Bibliography

?We have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked, but not combined. We are interested and associated, but not absorbed.?
Winston Churchill's famous quote aptly describes Britain's approach to European integration since the inception of the EU in the 1950's. Churchill emphasised 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 EU has been imitated by many of the Prime Ministers that followed him. Britain's relationship towards European integration has generally been one of a reluctant union, supporting free trade and mutually beneficial cooperation, while attempting to distance itself from economic and cultural ?unity' with Europe. In the same way, Keynes wrote in 1919: ?England still stands outside Europe. Europe's voiceless tremors do not reach her. Europe is apart and England is not of her Flesh and blood.? This statement also highlights the fact that by the end of the First World War Britain was considered to be ?in Europe but not of Europe?.

[...] The origins Britain's awkward partner reputation lie in the early years of British membership, when the then Labour government sought to renegotiate accession terms [George p.1], according to Stephen George- the best known proponent of the awkward partner thesis. The ?awkward theory? is based on the UK insular position and geographical detachment, its mainly naval power rather than a power focused on land, the fact that it has never been invaded or occupied, the idea that it is institutionally different from Europe (unbroken democratic tradition; different system of law - British common law vs. [...]


[...] Thatcher did take Britain into the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) but truth is that she always gave the impression that she saw the as a German racket designed to take over the whole of Europe? (Black p.312). This ended up undermining her cabinet and party unity. Britain's inability to deal with Europe reached its peak with John Major. In the 1992 ?Black Wednesday? he forced retreat from the ERM. The Conservatives were shattered into pieces and accused of incompetence, failing over Europe after several attempts by Major to prevent decision- making from falling into the European Commission hands (the Maastricht signing was seen as a political euthanasia by euro-sceptics).The 90s witnessed the end of a long Conservative era that was never able to sort out its antagonisms between euro-sceptics and pro-Europeans, which clearly stained it's credibility. [...]

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