Britain and Europe 1951-2007

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  • Created on: 24-05-16 17:36

Britain and Europe 1951-2007


·         When the process leading towards European integration began, there was an open opportunity for Britain to take a central role

·         The Schuman plan of 1950 set out the proposals for a coal and steel community that would integrate French and German heavy industry in order to promote rapid economic reconstruction and also to bind together the historic enemies, France and Germany, and eliminate the dangers of future wars between them

·         The Schuman plan was also to be the foundation of economic cooperation across western Europe

·         This scheme was strongly supported by Britain and the united states as an important contribution to the security of Europe as the cold war took shape

·         At any time up to 1957, there was an open door for British entry to the EEC; but Britain saw European integration as something vitally important for the continental Europe, but not for Britain

·         In a remarkably short period of time, however, British attitudes changed

·         In 1959, Britain took the lead in the formation of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) linking the economies of Britain, Denmark, Norway, Austria, Portugal and Switzerland

·         This was only moderately successful and Britain submitted an application for membership of the EEC in 1961

·         There were economic considerations influencing the decision to apply but also important foreign policy aims

·         Britain wanted to keep her position in the 3 areas of world affairs:

o   Europe

o   The commonwealth

o   The united states

·         The Americans were very much in favour of Britain joining the EEC

·         Britain was determined to keep her links to the commonwealth; although this made negotiations with the EEC extremely complex and difficult

·         By 2961 European integration was already leaving Britain behind

·         The EEC was under the domination of the partnership between France and Germany

·         The French president from 1958, Charles de Gaulle, was determined to protect his partnership with ‘les Anglo-Saxons’

·         The British application was rejected in 1963 as was the later application from Wilson’s labour government in 1967

·         Only in 1973 after de Gaulle had departed the scene, was Britain able to join, by which many commentators suggested Britain had ‘missed the European bus’

Locked outside, 1958-63:

·         The fundamental reason why Britain changed its mind about the EEC was economic: the realisation that the patterns of trade that had existed in the 1930s were no longer sufficient for Britain to keep pace with continental Europe, especially the ‘economic miracle’ occurring in West Germany

·         But there were also important foreign policy issues involved, both in the reasons why Britain applied for membership and in the reasons why that application was rejected

·         The united states was keen to see Britain join the EEC for strategic reasons, seeing Britain as a vital link between Europe and…


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