Will London step out of Europe? It is a real question !

Pauline Schapper, teacher at the University of La Sorbonne, explores in a very interesting book[1], precise and clear, the complicated relationship that Britain has had with Europe and vice versa.

The reluctance of the UK to enter the European community is deeply rooted in the fact that the sovereignty of British Parliament, a key notion, looked hardly compatible with the federalist ambition of the allies after WWII.  For Germany and France the economic aspect was just one stage that would naturally lead to a more political integration (the famous spillover policy).

Britain did not join the agreement on steel in 1952 or the European Defence Community in 1952 with France, Italy Germany and the Benelux countries

Then started the vicious circle. Because the UK was not a founding member, it was not in a position like the other countries to negotiate and defend specific interest as France did with the famous agricultural policy (PAC).

Britain’s participation into Europe has always been more pragmatic and utilitarian, less involved in cultural and symbolic aspects than its neighbours.

One will always recalls Maggie’s’ dramatic « I want my money back » in 1984 when she obtained a rebate, but one should not forget that Britain rejection of Europe, was first induced by General de Gaulle who twice vetoed its entry in 1963 and 1967, on the basis that Great Britain would not play the game, for it was too close to the US in terms of economics and politics.

With time, the sour relationship of Britain with Europe had settled down, the negotiations were tough and bitter but solvable with the different Labour and Conservative governments. It all changed with the election in 2010 of David Cameron, who systematically rejected Europe, using this issue as a political strategy to regain the ground gained by the UKIP.

This « Anti-federalist League » created in 1933, was reborn in the 90’s in rejection of Maastricht integration policy. The UKIP led by Nigel Farage, now plays a major political role in Britain. 

Not only has UKIP been the main British party represented in the European Parliament (24 seats/73) since May 2014, but it is also becoming much more important on a national scale, playing as it does on a widespread fear of immigration and espousing a sovereigntist ideology   It has gained strong positions, not only among the Conservative, but also the Labour party, thus leading to an escalation in anti-European feelings

David Cameron promised if he were reelected in May 2015, that he would hold a referendum on Britain’s continued  participation into Europe.

Who said politicians were short sighted and only cared about their reelection? 

[1]Le Royaume-Uni doit-il sortir de l'Union européenne ?” Edition La documentation française, 2014


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