CHAPTER 15
Britain and Europe: a case study

Britain joined the EEC fifteen years after it began its operations, twenty years after the
Six had pioneered the path to unity. Whereas other late entrants seem to have made the
adjustments in attitude required to make a success of membership, this has not been
the case for many British people and some of their elected representatives. They have
found it hard to adapt, hence their reputation on the continent as ‘reluctant Europeans’.
Perhaps this reflects a national difficulty in coming to terms with Britain’s reduced
circumstances in the world. Since 1945, Britain’s relatively declining industrial and
military strength has meant that it has not been able to sustain the position it once held.
Managing national decline is not a glorious role for politicians, for it arouses little popular
enthusiasm.

In this chapter, we trace political attitudes to developments on the continent and note
some of the facts that have made Britain seem like an ‘awkward partner’.


A global power

In 1945, Britain was regarded as a major power, having just emerged victorious from the Second World War. Not surprisingly, the country which ‘won the war’ felt that with such a worldwide importance it could win the peace. In the following years, it did not need to tie itself in to any commitments with the countries which it had defeated or which had been overrun in the hostilities. Britons felt that they could afford to remain aloof from Europe. For a long while, their governments were not ready to recognise or admit the country’s increasing weakness.

Hugo Young1 has written perceptively about popular attitudes at the time:

The island people were not only different but, mercifully separate, housed behind
their moat … They were also inestimably superior, as was shown by history both
ancient and modern: by the resonance of the Empire on which the sun never set,
but equally by the immediate circumstances out of which the new Europe was
born, the war itself. Her sense of national independence, enhanced by her unique
empire, absorbed by all creeds and classes and spoken for by virtually very analyst,
could not be fractured.

For years, Britain still attempted to preserve its global role. Churchill2 expressed his view of the competing claims on British foreign policy when he spoke of relations with other Western European countries: ‘we are with them, but not of them. We have our own Commonwealth and Empire’. In similar vein, Sir Anthony Eden spoke for many of his countrymen when he gave his reasons for not signing up for membership of the EDC. Speaking with the authority of a foreign secretary, he observed: ‘Britain’s story and her interests lie far beyond the continent of Europe. Our thoughts move across the seas to the many communities in which our people play their part, in every corner of the world … that is our life’.3

-266-

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The European Union
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Boxes vii
  • Tables viii
  • Maps ix
  • Introduction x
  • Background Information xv
  • Section One- History 1
  • Introduction 3
  • Chapter 1 - The Drive for European Unity to 1973 5
  • Chapter 2 - From Community to Union, 1973–93 30
  • Chapter 3 - Consolidating the European Union, 1993 To the Present Day 49
  • Chapter 4 - The Movement to Integration- A Theoretical Perspective 61
  • Section Two- Institutions 73
  • Introduction 75
  • Chapter 5 - Institutions of the European Union 76
  • Chapter 6 - Policy-Making and Law-Making Processes 97
  • Chapter 7 - Democracy and the European Union 115
  • Section Three- Representation 127
  • Introduction 129
  • Chapter 8 - Elections to the European Parliament 130
  • Chapter 9 - Political Parties and the European Union 152
  • Chapter 10 - Pressure Groups and the European Union 171
  • Section Four- Policies 189
  • Introduction 191
  • Chapter 11 - The Union Budget 196
  • Chapter 12 - First-Pillar Policies 204
  • Chapter 13 - Second- And Third-Pillar Policies 230
  • Section Five- Attitudes 239
  • Introduction 241
  • Chapter 14 - Member States 250
  • Chapter 15 - Britain and Europe- A Case Study 266
  • Conclusion- the State of the Union, Past and Present 277
  • References 294
  • Further Reading 303
  • Index 307
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