The General Says No: Britain's Exclusion from Europe

The General Says No: Britain's Exclusion from Europe

The General Says No: Britain's Exclusion from Europe

The General Says No: Britain's Exclusion from Europe

Excerpt

What hit us? For almost two years the British people have been re-examining their national identity. Are we still a great power? Is there any reality left in the old notions of national sovereignty, patriotism, Commonwealth leadership, and military indepen- dence? If not, should the British surrender a large slab of public business to a Community in which they would be minority partners only? Are there other more appropriate international groupings, or should Britain accept irrevocable links with Western Europe, that small exposed peninsula, with its tremendous human resources and peculiar capacity for self-destruction, at the tip of the Eurasian landmass?

To answer these questions has proved agonizingly difficult. When the Conservative Party came round to saying 'yes' to the European Community, Labour leaders charged them with turning their backs on a thousand years of history: the Conserva- tives retaliated by claiming that the future was on their side -- at which the reviving Liberal Party protested that they had been for joining Europe all the time. And then, while the country was still locked in argument and passions were red hot, General de Gaulle said 'No', and Britain's own views on her national destiny suddenly appeared absurdly irrelevant.

How could we have presented him with such an exposed posterior? Was the whole debate a gigantic hoax, with the French never intending to let us in? Why did the General pronounce the verdict as unexpectedly and brutally as he did?

As I reported the story of the breakdown in the columns of the Observer I became aware there were still many unsolved mysteries. The chapters in this book are the results of an attempt to discover the answers.

First, what kind of man was de Gaulle, what was he after, and why was he hostile to Britain? And then, on the British side, after . . .

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