Ever since the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957, Britain has been doing its subtle and sometimes not so subtle best (viz. Thatcher) to weaken Europe, and reduce it to a large and floppy business club with no political balls of its own. Indeed, at the EEC’s inception, Britain set up a rival organisation, the ‘European Free Trade Association.’ Even before then, Britain had refused to countenance the supranational aspects of the Council of Europe, thereby reducing it to an emasculated talking-shop.
At first, the US was irritated at Britain’s haughty behaviour, since it wanted a strong Europe as a bulwark against the Soviet Union. So it started to put pressure on Britain to join, at the same time taking care not to let anyone know that it was doing this, to ward off accusations of creating an American Trojan Horse in Europe. De Gaulle saw through the ploy, and twice rejected British applications to join the EEC. Following his demise, it was the pro-European admirer of de Gaulle, Edward Heath, who managed to get Britain into the club, but as a genuine sharer of sovereignty. But the honeymoon only lasted as long as the anti-Kissinger Heath’s premiership and the new Labour government held a referendum on membership, which it lost, but which nevertheless set the tone of Britain’s future relationship with the EEC, EC and then EU.
None of the above should of course seem even slightly surprising to a historian: much of England’s, and then English-controlled Britain’s, very raison d’etre has always been to weaken Europe, and particularly French leadership, since the One Hundred Years’ War, in which England grew to be defined by its very anti-Frenchness. The fighting continued on and off until 1815, when, instead of fighting the French for domination, Britain became obsessed with Russian, and then German, power, with well-known disastrous consequences.
Thus, Britain’s negative and slippery attitude towards Europe and the EU is perfectly understandable: the stronger the EU, the weaker Britain’s claim to political clout, which it only keeps going by hanging on to America’s coat tails. This suits the US in public relations terms. Think how much more difficult it would have been for the US, if Britain had gone along with the French and Germans in opposing the illegal attack on Iraq. It is highly unlikely that fellow IR gangsters Aznar of Spain and Berlusconi of Italy would have dared oppose the Franco-German axis.
It is at this point that we connect to the title of this article. After all the palaver about the EU’s inability to adopt a common approach on Iraq in 2003, any reasonable person would agree that the politician who bore most responsibility for splitting the EU was Mr. Tony Blair, who literally lied in order to go to war illegally against a sovereign state that Britain had armed and encouraged to fight Iran in the Eighties. It is simply surrealistic to imagine Mr. Blair as having even a remote chance of being in the running for the job of ‘President of Europe’. Yet, surrealistically, there is an enormous PR campaign underway, using a supine British and US media, to suggest that Blair is the man.
If Blair is, incredibly, chosen by the leaders of the 27 to be the president (were there European elections to decide the issue, he would not even dare to stand), then this could mark the first death throes of the original European ideal, and the end of the Monet-Schuman-Adenauer-de Gasperi-Spaak-Beyen vision. Europe must surely be able to find someone better than an alleged war criminal, who in addition kept Britain out of the Euro.