• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10
  11. 11
  12. 12

An examination of British policy with regard to European Unity during the period 1945 to 1949: Why did Britain did Britain diverge from the emerging European Community and was it justified in doing so?

Extracts from this document...


An examination of British policy with regard to European Unity during the period 1945 to 1949: Why did Britain did Britain diverge from the emerging European Community and was it justified in doing so? British policy towards Europe has been described as half-hearted and even compared to "haphazard meanderings" (Dell, 1995: 69) since 1948. In many ways British policy was unclear and confusing during the immediate post war period. During 1946 and 1947 Britain appeared to be a strong advocate of European unity; indeed it was a leader of Western Europe and generally assumed that Britain would continue to play such a role. It was Churchill who's request for "a kind of United States of Europe" during his 1946 speech in Zurich, whom not only sent out a positive message regarding union within Europe but was also one of the founding father's of the concept. During this time "Britain was regarded as the leader of Western Europe" (Croft, 1988: 617). Britain had come out of the war relatively unscathed and was considered the strongest European nation during this time. Having attained wartime prestige and maintained political strength Britain had "placed herself in the vanguard of the movement to achieve European Unity". Newman potently displays her assets: "She could have played a determining role in shaping the institutional form of a new community" and "others would have followed her" (Newman, 1996: 6). In-spite of this, British Policy was however, to take a significant leap away from European unity. From mid 1948 Britain began to put up resistance against proposals for a Council of Europe in 1949 and rejected notions of pooled economic sovereignty proposed by the OEEC. These years are of great importance as they set in motion the culminating events in 1951 when Robert Schuman's plans for a free market coal and steel industry were rejected out right. Thus its is evident that Britain had shifted it's position of power in Europe utterly. ...read more.


From the onset it is evident that Labour intended to pursue it's discourse primarily with national interests at heart. The government was held to its pledges and radical manifesto included in which lay commitments for implementing a welfare state and the socialization of basic industries and services such as transport, health and education (Shlaim, 1978). Political and economic sovereignty was key to enabling the fulfillment of these pledges. In apathy of Labour's position, Croft (1988) notes the "government could not have accepted the approach espousing European unity without sacrificing many important policies" (Croft, 1988: 618). Purely in terms of pragmatic consideration it can thus be argued that the government was not in a position to participate in Europe. In doing this the very proposals that gained Labour a landslide general election victory would to some extent be neglected. -Thus, in defense of the government is the argument that the Labour party was maneuvered into a position where by even if it desired it could not partake an active role in the building of Europe. These pragmatic considerations perhaps justify Britain's caution with regard to the OEEC. For Croft (1988) comments, "economic sovereignty had to remain in London in order to implement the transformation of society". The government needed complete sterling independence to initiate the massive, internal, socialist changes it had proposed. The Labour government, as it took the reigns of power in 1945, had a huge under taking. For Croft sovereignty of Britain's economic sphere was an essential prerequisite for the successful restructuring of British society during this turbulent post war period (Croft, 1988). Notions of handing over Sovereignty Perhaps the prime reason for Britain's aversion to towards a participatory role in Europe was the prospect of giving up national sovereignty. Any handover of national independence, be it political or economic, has been vehemently opposed by successive governments through out Britain's history and the post war Labour government was no exception. ...read more.


Thus, as the essay has highlighted, from the onset Britain/Europe relations were on a `wrong footing'. It is these beginnings that have continued to set the pattern of this relationship for years to come. The second part of this essay endeavored to discuss the reasons behind diverging Britain/Europe policies. Of notable importance was Britain's untarnished self-perception of itself as a global power. Britain believed that it could go re-establish itself as a world power. This ideal would be rendered void if she pursued integration into a broader pooled European Community. More reaching than this explanation of European rejection was a shear despise of hading autonomy and sovereignty over to a federalist European body of governance. Historically Britain had never been accountable to a higher body and Labour was not going place the country in such a position now. The essay has sought to balance empathy of Britain's European policy with subsequent criticism. Hindsight tells us clearly that Britain should have joined a closer bond with Europe and that clearly Britain was wrong to abstain from European negotiation. Britain rejected Europe in search of a more glamorous global role that simply no longer existed. The British government's policy was also led in large part by the principle of handing over power. Perhaps it should have thought more in terms of the realistic and practical benefits that a united community could offer. To draw one final conclusion, so much of Britain's foreign policy was linked inherently with fear. Bevin splendidly purveys this fear with regard to a loss of sovereignty threatened from the formation of the Council of Europe; "If you open that Pandora's box you never know what Trojan horses will jump out" (Bevin, 1949 in Pilkington, 2001: 9). The British government feared a loss of sovereignty; it feared the implications of federalist rule and above all feared an inevitable stand down in global influence, stature and a retirement from the world stage. For all these reasons Britain sought to distance its political agenda from that of its own continent. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level European Union section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level European Union essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    ‘The main democratic deficit in the European Union is psychological, not institutional.’ Discuss.

    4 star(s)

    They are both as bad as each other. Secondly, not all policy processes consist of cobbling together deals to satisfy the current complexion of political forces. The commission aims for co-ordinated forward planning, with a view to initiate not react, and look at medium rather than short term.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Has the creation of the Single European Market been a success?

    4 star(s)

    liberalized rules governing cross-border securities transactions, admission of corporate securities to capital markets in other member states, e.g. stock exchange and in 1988 it obliged member states to lift all restrictions on capital movements except measures intended to ensure the continuing liquidity of local banks or temporary restrictions in response

  1. Free essay

    Has British Politics been Europeanised

    The system is one of give and take, which means that Britain pay a large sum to the budget if the European Union, and in return Britain receive large amounts annually in subsidies and grants. Finally, the European Union is highly prestigious on a global spectrum as it plays the

  2. The Institution of the European Union and Theories.

    had an impact on Boots as their staff had to be trained on how to use the new currency which has incurred costs for Boots. Time for training is consumed as significant costs will be incurred to change IS systems to support the change over to the new currency in the UK or the rest of Europe.

  1. The aim of this essay is to present the reason of British government changing ...

    Second, European affairs were seen as irrelevant to the British public. Third, the consensus emerged that membership in the Community could weaken Britain's strong trading links to its Commonwealth countries. In the late forties and early fifties British standards of living, British income per head, and strength of British economy

  2. Chraibi, Driss. Heirs to the Past

    "'God bless you, Haj, and may your soul rest in peace. What should I have done without you?' 'Nothing,' declared Nagib." (Chraibi, 70) Nagib shows his reverence for the Seigneur and shows how much love he has for the man.

  1. The Foreign Policy of Great Britain in relationship to the European Union.

    Thatcher's relationship with the Community was characterized by these differences. The unpopularity of the EC with much of the electorate for much of the time has influenced the approach of statesmen (and women), who are also politicians who have to win elections.

  2. Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer, Alcide de Gasperi, Paul- Henri Spaak- Describe their ...

    He met often with Schuman and Adenauer setting up the conditions of ulterior advancements in the European integration. Active in the resistance during World War II, he succeeded in reorganising the Italian Popular Party as the Christian Democratic Party (CDP).

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work