An Awkward Partner: Britain in the European Community

An Awkward Partner: Britain in the European Community

An Awkward Partner: Britain in the European Community

An Awkward Partner: Britain in the European Community


Britain joined the EU in 1973, over twenty years after the first of the European Communities was formed. Within a year, Britain had established a reputation for being at odds with major Community initiatives and for taking an independent point of view. An Awkward Partner surveys the policies that earned Britain this reputation, recording the rote successive British governments have played in the European Community. In this third edition Stephen George brings his analysis up to date, taking the story of the Major Government through to its end in the 1997 general election.


On 1 January 1973 Britain became a member of the European Communities, twenty-two years after the first of those Communities had been created without British participation. Within a year of achieving membership, Britain was already regarded as something of an awkward partner, a reputation that has remained through to the time of writing.

After a brief review of the relationship between Britain and the Communities prior to membership, this book concerns itself with the basis for that reputation. It is intended to be an overview of the field, a presentation of the record more than a detailed analysis of the reasons for the awkwardness, but it is not possible to separate explanation from account totally, and the elements of explanation that are emphasized here are political. They stress the influence of external circumstances and domestic political considerations in moulding the attitudes of successive British Governments to developments within the Community.

The chapters are ordered chronologically and divided according to the succession of British Prime Ministers, except for Chapters 5, 6, and 7 which divide the Thatcher Governments into three periods determined by developments at the EC level. For thematic unity Chapters 5 and 6 overlap a little, so that some events that occurred during the 1979-84 period are actually recounted in Chapter 6, since they are more relevant to the theme of new directions for the Community, which became the dominant theme of British policy after June 1984, than to that of settling Britain's dispute over its contributions to the Community's budget, which is the main theme of Chapter 5.

Each chapter begins with an outline of the international context within which the events described in the chapter occurred and of the domestic political and economic situation during the period in question. Some of the relevance of this is brought out explicitly in the rest of the chapter; otherwise the purpose is to set the development of British policy within the Community in a wider frame of reference . . .

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