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Britain and European relations, 1945-73
A. Post war British attitudes to Europe
1. Why was there a growing movement towards closer
West European co-operation after 1945?
After 1945, the British economy was incredibly weak. Britain had
borrowed from many of her colonies during the war, and had large goods
from Britain, e.g. India, had began manufacturing their own goods or
importing from elsewhere.
She had also relied on US loans during WW2 (The LendLease
Programme). By integrating more closely with Europe, Britain hoped to
rebuild her economy.
Tensions had arisen between Britain and her empire, with an
independence movement in India before the war. In 1947, India became
independent, followed by Palestine in 1948.
Britain's empire had created an impression of power, and without it,
Britain was in danger of losing her world power status. By close ties with
Europe, she had a chance or retaining her status.
Britain also wanted to prove herself a worthy ally to the US. The US had
always held an antiimperial attitude so Britain hope that by focusing more
on European relations than Imperial relations, they would be able to keep
the US as a close ally.
In 1945, the new Labour government, led by Attlee, was less close to the
US than previous governments. By integrating more closely with Europe,
the UK hoped to improve her relationship with the US. Also, a stronger
relationship with Europe would make up for weaker US relations.
Britain was also fighting against the USSR in the Cold War, and by
integrating with Europe she hoped to have allies in the Cold War.
2. Why was Britain unsure about the new
developments in European integration?
Britain had adopted a policy of isolationism following WW2. Closer ties
with Europe would mean surrendering some of her national sovereignty if
she were to join supranational organisations. This concerned Britain as
she would have no control, and would have to cooperate fully with
Europe, something that she was not comfortable with.
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POST WAR RECONSTRUCTION:
Britain had been badly damaged during
the war, and there was an argument that
Britain should focus on repairing her own
country before agreeing to integrate any
further with Europe.
Also, Attlee was inexperienced in foreign
policy matters, and was more committed
to welfare reforms in Britain, such as
rebuilding housing and creating the NHS,
than in integration with Europe.
In 1945, a lot of Britain's trade was with the Commonwealth and empire.…read more