stats
globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space


Search

space
  This site         Tips

  
space
  The Web Google
space
   space



space

  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology

space
Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

   Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...

space

Services
   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    

PRINT EDITION
Will a long, loveless marriage end with Brexit?
space
space
By JEFFREY SIMPSON
  
  

Email this article Print this article
Thursday, June 23, 2016 – Page A11

The high point of British support for Europe arguably came in 1975, two years after the country joined what was then called the European Community (EC). Since then, the British have slowly soured on European integration.

In 1975, the British voted 67 per cent in a referendum in favour of the EC. When a major polling firm asked in that year whether the European Community was a "Good Thing," half of the population said yes. Even the major papers, many now hostile to Europe in general and the European Union in particular, favoured British entry.

For the next four decades, support for Britain in Europe and British views of the European Community rose and fell, but the general drift was down. The idea that today's referendum on EU membership, with so many Britons wanting to leave, represents something new is false.

There are fresh drivers of opinion - migration and inequality - but Britain never had a love affair with Europe. It was a loveless marriage of convenience.

In 1981, two and a half years into Margaret Thatcher's first term as prime minister, that same polling firm found only 21 per cent of Brits thought the European Community a "Good Thing." In 1977, with John Major as prime minister, only 36 per cent of British considered the EC a "Good Thing."

The last prime minister who genuinely believed in the virtues of the EU was Tony Blair. Since Edward Heath, Ms. Thatcher's predecessor as prime minister who negotiated Britain's entry into the EC, most prime ministers have been lukewarm defenders or frequent critics. None of them, except Mr. Blair, tried to make the case for Europe as anything more than a utilitarian arrangement, a balance sheet.

The British did not change, but the European Union did. On the continent, the original six countries that created the European integration project always wanted tighter political union, which meant social policies, common laws, trade negotiations conducted by Brussels and later, of course, a common currency. The British never bought into a tighter political union and stayed out of the euro zone.

Europe changed for two other reasons. German unification made Germany an axis around which the EU would turn. The old French-Germany axis faded, as France slipped as an economic power in comparison with Germany, and Germany was thrust into the role as the EU's leading political actor, a role Germany did not want.

Then the Iron Curtain disappeared. The countries of Eastern Europe, desperate to throw off the shackles of the Sovietimposed Warsaw Pact (the military alliance) and Comecon (the economic bloc), hungered to join West European institutions.

The Cold War ties that bound the West, including the European Community/Union, yielded to wider but less easily defined communalities.

When these new countries were allowed in, Europe became more complicated. It was subject to new pressures and demands, including the right of free movement that sent citizens from these countries heading to Britain for work. These countries were geographically removed from Britain, unlike the countries across the English Channel.

The first European institutions were established in the aftermath of war, and were therefore designed to preserve peace.

These institutions succeeded brilliantly, but success was taken for granted as the decades passed. The wartime generation died. Subsequent generations simply assumed peace.

British diplomats often shone inside the institutions of Europe, but the shining was unknown outside the walls of the Berlaymont building, the EU headquarters in Brussels. Back home, the diplomats were depicted in the rabidly anti-EU British press as putty in the hands of the continentals and, worse, connivers with the continentals in supranational schemes.

When two crises washed over the EU, the institution struggled to respond, and that struggle further soured British opinion.

The first was the made-in-America financial crisis; the second was the mass migration from failed states and economic basket cases from Bangladesh to Algeria.

Neither of these were the EU's fault and no easy answers presented themselves for these two nasty crises. Moreover, the British perception of being overrun by migration - a perception fuelling a desire to leave the EU - had much more to do with Britain's colonial past and domestic immigration policies than EU membership.

So after decades of drifting away from the European idea, with few voices of prominence ready to speak positively rather than defensively about the European project, Britain wobbles to a fateful decision.


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Jeffrey_Simpson Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail
 

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.

Advertisement

7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes


Editorial
Where Manley is going with his first budget




space

Columnists



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.

 National


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
space
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
space
Margaret Wente arrow
Counterpoint
space
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game
space
 Business


Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
space
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
space
Mathew Ingram arrow
space
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
space
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
space
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
space
Andrew Willis arrow
Streetwise
space
 Sports


Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
space
Eric Duhatschek arrow
space
Allan Maki arrow
space
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
space
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
Golf
space
 The Arts


John Doyle arrow
Television
space
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
space
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
space
Johanna Schneller arrow
Moviegoer
space
 Comment


Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
space
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
space
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
space
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
space
Paul Knox arrow
Worldbeat
space
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
space
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
space
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
space
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
space
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
space
William Thorsell arrow
space





Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page