Britain & Europe: New Bottle, Same Wine

The European peoples do not want a supranational authority to impose agreements … in every respect we are closer to our kinsmen in Australia and New Zealand on the far side of the world than we are to Europe’. These insular and somewhat arrogant words were written by the ruling British  Labour Party in June 1950, only a few months after it had scuppered Europe’s first attempt to create a united and peaceful Europe, the result being an election-free ‘Council of Europe’, that had no remit to create policy, and which ended up as little more than a talking-shop. When the French, irritated at Britain’s negative attitude, then consulted the US about a European Coal and Steel Community, the British Foreign Secretary, Bevin, was furious. The six went ahead without Britain which, in the words of one politician, wanted to keep the US to herself, like a ‘jealous lover’. Enter the arch-politician Winston Churchill who, when in opposition, had called for the creation of a European army, under a unified command, in which ‘we should all bear a worthy and honourable part’. When he was returned to power in 1951, however, he reneged on his commitment to Europe, saying that ‘he had meant it for them, not us’, and that we are ‘with, but not of’. Such semantic sliding typifies Britain’s alleged commitment to Europe.



When the Six created the European Economic Community (EEC), Britain, seeing it as a threat, riposted by creating the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). By the time that Britain realized its mistake, it was too late to just march in on its own terms, and Charles de Gaulle turned down its application twice. He is credited with saying that Britain would be a worm in the apple and an American Trojan Horse. Apart from the brief period of the Conservative Edward Heath’s premiership, Britain has indeed been a worm in the European apple, and will continue to be so. Heath was in fact a British Gaullist, suspicious of the US into the bargain. When he fell from power, the first thing the new Labour government did was to hold a referendum on whether to remain in the then EEC. It lost, but only narrowly. The Conservative Thatcher government proved even worse, with her famous attack on the EEC at Bruges. When the Conservative John Major came to power, he said that he would put Britain ‘at the heart of Europe’. This was simply PR-speak.  


The fact is that Britain is simply too insecure psychologically to muck in with the rest, and be communautaire. As Robert Schuman wrote, Britain has a prejudice against precise and rigid texts.

A British historian wrote: ‘Mr. Schuman and his colleagues were in effect starting with a broad conception, not lacking in nobility and grandeur, requiring a commitment of principle from the outset. This was inimical to British practice and mental habits.’

One of the most recent examples of Britain’s worm-in-the-apple and Trojan horse tendencies was of course the illegal attack on Iraq, when she essentially distanced herself from the Franco-German axis, and supported the US slavishly. Blair became Bush’s puppet. So did Britain.

At the moment of writing, Britain is engaged in a bitter behind-the-scenes battle with France and Germany, with the latter trying to introduce proper Brussels-led controls on financial skullduggery, while Britain continues, with its US boss, to try and scupper the plans.

So never mind about the Liberal Democrats’ allegedly European agenda. It will be subsumed in the Conservatives’ attempts to divide the EU further in pursuit of its lax and irresponsible Friedmanesque exaggerated free market policies. The main reason for this is that, although Britain’s main trade is with the EU, its most important investments are with the US. The US will not allow Britain to go European, since it would weaken NATO and the enormous financial investment in US arms sales, in which Britain is inextricably intertwined.

In other words, British foreign and defence policy is American, and Britain is simply a pageboy, despite the rhetoric. Cosmetically, of course, Britain will try to claim that it is independent, by trying, for example, to change the lopsided extradition law with the US. But in defence and foreign policy, forget it. Although some true Englishmen love to sing that ‘Britons never, never, never will be slaves’, the words ring rather hollow today. Remember how Kissinger did not allow London to give up its bases in Cyprus, and how Britain was forced to kick its own subjects out of its dependent territory of Diego Garcia, because it had rented it to the US? And who did Britain’s new Foreign Secretary, Hague, go to see before anyone else? His US counterpart. That speaks volumes. WAU_tab(‘plfy879rwt7o’, ‘left-middle’)




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Comments (6)



Professor of International Relations
written by Vassilis K. Fouskas, May 24, 2010

This is a brilliant op-ed. Mallinson’s assertions are in tandem with Peter Hennessy’s findings, namely that Britain never had an independent nuclear deterrence. Being the most loyal spoke in the imperial wheel of the USA after 1944, Britain has just managed to be a spoiler of European integration, both economically and politically. But what does she get in return, it is hard to tell. Mallinson’s piece reflects truth, history and rightful anger.


written by Adrian Mallinson, May 25, 2010

Cogent, articulate and courageous.


written by
DC Hats , April 26, 2011

November in the Northern Hemisphere, just walked into the bleak late autumn, while in the southern hemisphere is already a bustling cluster Kam Melbourne spring. This season, Australia was originally one of the most popular travel destinations, and experience the sun, grass, beautiful, handsome, horse gathered in the Allure event, so many travel agents have to seize this opportunity to launch boutique features lines.


written by Andreas Evriviades Louca, May 27, 2011

The partnership between Britain and the United states is evidently more powerful than ever. This is the result of Britain’s tactic of putting the U.S interests ahead of the European ones and even its own short-term ambitions for decades, ever since the end of WW2. From the beginning the British political leadership knew that a choice would have to be made, to either focus on its European partners and strive to eventually achieve a mild control over them in the form of assuming leadership of the European community or seek a symbiotic relationship with the U.S. Despite choosing the latter it was soon discovered that a complete detachment from the rest of the countries of the European continent was, if not impossible, then definitely a damaging prospect for its political and economical future among countries willing to isolate its role and influence in their new league.
The decision to join the EEC with such a delay forced Britain to receive a political humiliation at the hands of the French government, with general de Gaulle’s eventually rejecting their bid. While this may seem like old history for Britain nowadays, its leadership never accepted such humiliations without retaliation in the past. The entire British agenda was constructed with the future goal of reinforcing the influence of the U.S within the new European alliance, damaging any potential hope for it to be able to operate independently without interventions from states and powers located outside of its continent.
An obvious giveaway is that despite the fact that England belongs to the E.U it still refuses to adopt the currency of the Euro, and indivertibly be affected by a possible economical crisis linked to a possible drop of its value, remaining attached to the more powerful British pound instead. Another example of Britain’s balancing between America and Europe with ease and without constrain. The only apparent gateway for Europe is to confront Britain, and force it to reject it’s somewhat rogue character, or remove it’s E.U membership as punishment. This is highly unlikely though as proven by the blatant inability shown by the E.U to even discipline prospective members, such as Turkey with its erratic behaviour, let alone corner one of the most powerful countries in the union and the world. A country which stubbornly remains isolated, not only by land but also by its flawed mentality, from the remaining European states and carves a premeditated path for them, expecting them to follow it ignoring the possible issues that will be caused.
Given the damage inflicted on the European Union from the many years of malfunctioning, through Britain’s inability to detach itself from the U.S, one would think that a change in attitude would start to rear its head. However the crisis in the Middle East with Afghanistan and Iraq following the terrorist attacks against the U.S on 9/11 left little room for doubt. Britain rushed to the aid of its “bigger brother”, simultaneously ignoring a unique opportunity for Europe to act as a regulator, due to the distance between the U.S and the area of conflict.
For the time being Britain can rely on the U.S to underline its role and power in the E.U but if their relationship becomes damaged or if the U.S inevitably lose their role in the world as the leading force, which a scenario that comes closer every day, then Britain will find itself truly isolated. This time however it will not be just from its rival European states but perhaps from multiple powers across the world eager to present their own political retribution by adopting a similar stand against the U.K.