The Relationship between Great Britain and the EU

Relationship between Great Britain and the European Union Since 1945

May 22, 2020 at History Essays

Great Britain and the EU

The diplomatic relations between Great Britain and the European Union had been not always stable and positive. On the contrary, they were tense. The membership in the European Union did not bring the desired harmony to the country. The issue of relations with the EU has always concerned the British politicians and prime ministers, in particular. It is still not clear why some countries seek to enter the most prestigious organization while others are irritated, confused, and displeased with this idea. The current paper seeks to discuss a complicated relationship between Great Britain and the European Union since 1945 and determine whether the United Kingdom can ever adopt the euro.

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The Creation of the Empire

For most of its modern history, the United Kingdom has been creating a powerful Empire. In the middle of the twentieth century, Europeans recognized the benefits of the colonies and prevented the British from trading and conquering (Mann, 2012). Great Britain considered its continental neighboring enemies, which threatened its existence. Moreover, the events of World War II have significantly affected the relationship of the British to Europeans.

The Darkest Hour of Great Britain

According to Winston Churchill (2013), the darkest hour of Great Britain was the period of the French surrender and the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union. At that time, the British were the only force opposing the Nazis in Europe (Buchanan, 2008). Churchill’s view is still relevant for today. The majority of citizens believe that the best and most reliable friend of their country is itself. However, the British can rely on the USA in case once needed.

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The Constancy of British Interests

Many European countries have formed alliances based on their common faith and history while the British have changed their allies and enemies, depending on the particular situation. Such aspects as fraternal peoples and sacred duty have never bothered the United Kingdom. Only the country’s interests are eternal and immutable. Therefore, the nation has to follow them.

The European Union after World War II

The basics of the European Union were laid immediately after World War II. Many politicians have sought to unite most of the European countries together to avoid bloody conflicts. Winston Churchill did not oppose this attempt (Buchanan, 2008). However, after such a promising start, the British decided to wait and see whether the European initiatives would bring any success. Owing to the insular position, England has escaped significant damage. After the war, the French and Germans recognized the harmfulness of nationalism and demonstrated the willingness to give up a part of their sovereignty for the sake of the world (Buchanan, 2008). However, Great Britain was proud of its victory and sought to strengthen its position in the world. The British rulers regarded their country as a world power and tried to preserve their unique position.

The Establishment of the European Economic Community

In 1957, the six countries such as France, Belgium, West Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Luxembourg signed the Treaty of Rome, creating the European Economic Community (Stoltman, 2012). The British did not want to join it. They just wanted to preserve all that they had gained. However, some changes were necessary. While the German and French economies reached a new level of development, the British one was stagnant.

Great Britain Joins the European Economic Community

In 1961, London applied to join the European Economic Community (Parr, 2006). French President Charles de Gaulle opposed British membership in the regional organization. He accused the British of the deeply rooted hostility to the European integration and a greater interest in the relationship with the USA. In fact, Charles de Gaulle was not right. All countries that joined the EU did this way for their own economic and political benefits. Therefore, it was unfair to blame the British for criticizing the European idea and seeking personal gain. In 1973, the premier minister Edward Heath finally led Britain into Europe (Childs, 2012).

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The British supported the EU membership in the referendum of 1975 with a convincing score of 67% (Stephens, 2015). The main political parties; and all national newspapers expressed their support. However, the heated debate about whether or not Great Britain should be in the union continued. The membership of the EEC did not bring immediate positive results. The country suffered from strikes, interruptions in the supply of electricity, rising oil prices, and inflation.

The relationship between the European Union and Great Britain in the 1980s

In the 1980s, the relationship between London and Brussels was extremely tense (Jones & Norton, 2014). Margaret Thatcher did not oppose the EU economic programs but resisted the considerable integration. After four years of negotiations, she achieved the reduction of the country’s contribution to the common European budget. The Prime Minister highlighted the fact that the British farmers received fewer subsidies than their European counterparts. Therefore, taxpayers should not have to maintain them. In addition, Great Britain did not sign the European Social Charter and decided that the nation would make decisions personally and independently (Rawls, 2005).

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The European Community did not emerge after signing the Treaty of Rome. However, it remains one of the manifestations of European identity. Europe will be stronger precisely due to the nation’s own customs, traditions, and national character. Margaret Thatcher considered a great folly to involve all countries in the union. However, she was unable to stop the European Union on the path of political integration.

Tony Blair’s Tenure

A great supporter of the European Union Tony Blair became a prime minister of Great Britain in 1997 (Laursen, 2016). He quickly established the relationship with other countries, signed the European Social Charter, and examined the likelihood of adopting the euro. Great Britain could become a member of the Eurozone. However, Blair encountered with economic issues. Therefore, the British were not sure that everything was worth it. Tony Blair supported a closer European integration and wanted Britain to join the Eurozone (Booker & North, 2016). The Minister of Finance Gordon Brown said that if the country joined the union, he would resign. It was a big issue for Blair. Throughout the years of his tenure, he continued to call for closer ties with the European Union and adopting the euro. Blair would be happy to lead Great Britain into the Eurozone (Jones & Norton, 2014). He was convinced that the country and its fate were linked to Europe.

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Therefore, Blair wondered why they should refuse from joining the union if the opportunity was given. Such a refusal would be madness. The EU is an economic union that the British should not abandon for political reasons. He was convinced that it would be a betrayal of national interests.

David Cameron’s Tenure

One of the campaign promises of the Conservative Party and, in particular, the new prime minister was to hold a referendum on whether the country should remain a member of the European Union. The majority of the members of his cabinet did not want to break the ties with the EU (Booker & North, 2016). Being pragmatic, politicians considered it a one-way ticket without the right of a return. The goal set by Cameron was to bring about the change in the relationship between Great Britain and the European Union. The majority of the population would approve of the continuation of its European status. The leaders of other EU countries would like the British to remain. However, they were not ready to compromise the fundamental principles of the European Union.

The current Prime Minister David Cameron claimed that nobody should count on the British support of the large European community (Childs, 2012). These people are independent, straightforward, and strong. They passionately defend personal sovereignty. The nation could try to change their national character. However, in this case, it would lose itself and its own uniqueness. Therefore, the attitude towards the European Union is based on the practical interest, not emotions. The insular mentality of Great Britain still does not allow the British to become an integral part of the European community. However, the mentality of British residents is not the only issue. Great Britain was one of the greatest empires in the world, and, therefore, the British were used to give orders, not obey them.

The Future Referendum on Great Britain’s membership of the European Union

The British Prime Minister David Cameron has recently promised to carry out the nationwide referendum on Great Britain’s membership in the European Union. There are the main arguments for and against the UK membership in the EU. Many experts still wonder about the possible practical consequences of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. If the British decide to withdraw, they will have to sign a new trade agreement with the rest of the countries. Therefore, UK companies can continue to sell their products on the European market uninterruptedly (Booker & North, 2016). The supporters of this idea believe that the UK will be able to negotiate amicably to promote close trade ties with the EU.

Pros and Cons in Regard to Great Britain’s membership in the European Union

The majority of those, who favored the withdrawal from the union, believe in the following fact. The option that was once relevant to Norway, Switzerland, and Turkey, fit Great Britain’s interests. They want to sign a lucrative trade agreement under which the UK will not be subjected to the EU law (Jones & Norton, 2014). The country will come out of the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction, extend the right of people’s free movement in Europe, and will not have to pay any membership fees. Currently, the law of Great Britain and the EU are in full regulatory compliance, signing an agreement will be relatively easy. The proponents of withdrawal believe that in the absence of the EU bureaucracy and its rules, small and medium enterprises will thrive thus producing employment growth. They also think that the British government will regain full control over its borders.

Opponents claim that the amicable separation is not possible. France, Germany, and other EU countries will never allow the UK to choose itself, which of Union’s rules it agrees with. It will take many years to sign a free trade agreement. The result of these negotiations is not clear. If the United Kingdom decides to break its ties with the EU, its products will be imposed on tariffs. Therefore, British manufacturers will still be required to comply with EU standards, which would undermine their competitiveness (Laursen, 2016). All these aspects will lead to a trade war between Great Britain and the EU, which will produce significant issues for British exporters.

Opponents also claim that millions of jobs will be lost, as multinational companies will transfer their production to other EU countries. In particular, this step will affect the automotive industry, which is almost all owned by foreign corporations. They also believe that the United Kingdom may be forced to accept the freedom of movement of the EU citizens in exchange for access to British goods and services on the European market (Booker & North, 2016). In addition, they claim that immigration within the European Union benefitted the British economy. The forecast of the British economic growth is based partly on the high level of immigration.

The Likelihood of the Adoption of the Euro as the Single Currency in the European Union

England, as a part of the United Kingdom and the most notable member of the EU, has chosen not to switch to the euro. The British pound has retained its national currency. Therefore, Great Britain is unlikely to accept the European currency in the future. At the moment, this prospect seems unlikely because the economic conditions are unsuitable (Booker & North, 2016). Moreover, the entire situation has not changed dramatically. Therefore, it will be reasonable not to hurry with a decision. The transition to all-European currency is possible only if certain conditions are met. These ones are based on the convergence of the UK economy with the eurozone countries (Childs, 2012). If changes do not help the state, then they are not necessary. Nowadays, the representatives of business and industry do not feel the necessity of adopting the euro. If the referendum of 2017 decides to withdraw from the European Union, the adoption of the euro will not be expedient.

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Conclusion

The relations between Great Britain and the European Union have always been tense, problematic, and contradictive. The issue of the secession from the EU will be raised on the scheduled UK referendum in 2017. David Cameron has recently proposed this initiative. The British anti-integration sentiments are associated with both the historical past of the country and the tense relationship with the European Union. The evolution of the UK over the last century and its position at the end of the Second World War have given rise to the contradiction. For fifteen years, the United Kingdom has been a fierce opponent of the EU (then EEC) but then was forced to ask about joining.

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