Uneasy Allies: British-German Relations and European Integration since 1945

By Klaus Larres; Elizabeth Meehan | Go to book overview
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British–West German Relations, 1973–1989


Britain’s accession to the European Community on 1 January 1973 altered the context of British–West German relations, but it did not fundamentally alter the nature of the relationship. Neither country saw their bilateral relations as its first priority. For much of the period from 1973 to 1989 Britain continued to perceive its ties with the United States as more important, despite difficult moments during the 1970s and growing tensions in the 1980s that the close personal relationship between Mrs Thatcher and President Reagan only partially masked. Germany, despite its support for British membership of the EC, continued to look to France as its primary partner. Yet it, too, remained preoccupied with its relationship with the United States over issues of security and détente.1 Nevertheless, for most of the time between Britain’s accession to the European Community and the end of the cold war, Britain and Germany typically worked well together, albeit with little warmth, differing priorities, and, perhaps, a latent suspicion of each other’s motives. While the Franco-German relationship continued to be central to the development of the Community during the period, relations between Britain and German were typically more low-key, often producing positive results, but with rather less drama than sometimes surrounded FrancoGerman co-operation.2

Within the framework of the European Community, the basic conditions of British membership had been set out at the Hague Summit in 1969 and longer term goals at the summits of 1972 and 1974.3 France’s President Pompidou had very largely determined the conditions. While he recognized the desirability of enlargement to include the British, Pompidou explicitly linked it to the completion and deepening of the Community.4

1 On the influence of the US, see Ch. 7 by V. Ingimundarson.

2 W. Wallace, Britain’s Bilateral Links Within Western Europe (London, 1984), 29.

3 For a useful assessment of the implications of the Hague Summit, see C. Franck, ‘New Ambitions from the Hague to Paris Summits (1969–72)’, in R. Pryce (ed.), The Dynamics of European Union (London, 1987).

4 See H. Young, This Blessed Plot: Britain and Europe From Churchill to Blair (London, 1998), 234–5; and H. Simonian, The Privileged Partnership: Franco-German Relations in the European Community (Oxford, 1985), 78 ff.


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