Is Britain still the awkward partner in Europe?

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s): 115
  • Published: March 19, 2005
Read full document
Text Preview
In 2003, thirty years after Britain became a membership of the European Communities, it is still considered as Europe's "awkward partner". Where does it come from? European communities were created because the founding fathers of the union believed that integrating European countries' economies would link them in order to preserve peace between them and that this economic integration would one day lead to political integration. The other objective was to create a huge European market which would match the American one in size and scale. In 1950, Robert Schuman proposed the pooling of French and West German supplies of coal and steal, and invited the other European states that whished to associate themselves to the experiment. But Britain was yet involved in the formation of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). And there was opposition from the Commonwealth "who believed that British membership would work against the Commonwealth economic and political relationship" [George, S.; 1998]. British argued that the United Kingdom's economic and political interests were worldwide and a European common market would be contrary to the approach of free trade and payments. It would also involve the removal of protection for British industry against European competition. Moreover, Britain did not want to lose its sovereignty for this supranational integration and preferred to be careful and wait to see if this experiment would work. For these reasons Britain decided not to join the European Coal and Steal Community (ECSC) despite being subjected to strong American pressure favoring European integration. This resistant situation was to persist into the 1960s, when Britain finally came to apply for membership of the Communities. As Miriam Camps says in her study of the period from 1955 to 1963, "the British Government had lost the initiative and was reacting to European situations created by others; it was not itself setting the pace" [George, S.; 1998]. After several De Gaulle's vetoes, Britain finally joined the European Communities (EC) in 1973.

What is exactly an awkward partner? In this case, an awkward partner is a state which is not cooperated, a state which is difficult to deal with. For these reasons Britain has been called Europe's "awkward partner" since 1950s and is still the awkward partner within the EU, however, to a lesser degree than before. If an awkward partner is a state which does not cooperate nor respect what had been decided, we could say that member-states like France and Germany are also "awkward partners" because they do not respect the rules and procedures foreseen in the stability and growth pact. Sweden and Denmark have both rejected membership of the single currency in a referendum, as the United Kingdom; are they also "awkward partners"? Instead of "Is Britain still the awkward partner in Europe" the question could be "Is Britain the only awkward partner in Europe"?

Britain has often been reluctant to European projects which were proposed to make an ever closer union. Since the creation of the ECSC in 1957, its main argument to fight European integration has been its fear to lose its sovereignty and its culture. Even the fact that Britain is an island was important. This general attitude has not changed since the 1950s: "Where do we stand? We are not members of the European Defence Community, nor do we intend to be merged in a Federal European system. We feel we have a special relation to both. This can be expressed by prepositions, by the preposition "with" but not "of" - we are with them but not of them. We have our own Commonwealth and Empire. (Churchill, 1953)" [Risse, T.; 1997]. As a result, Britain's role in Europe has generally been a difficult and sometimes "awkward" one; and Britain only joined the European Economic Community in 1973. Even since that time, there have been political "conflicts" between the British...
tracking img