Continental Drift

Letter From England

Both recent and longer-term history throw fight on British distinctiveness within the European Community. It is apparent that enthusiasm for the EC, let alone a federal Europe, is limited in Britain, and that much of the history of political convergence over the last 40 years is to be sought in the calculations of particular politicians and political groups, rather than in any moves reflecting a popular groundswell. Like other modern "democratic" societies, Britain has a political system and culture that is only partially democratized, and more heed is paid to popular anxieties and xenophobia by the oft-derided popular press than by supposedly democratic politicians. This was true of the Heath ministry that negotiated British entry into the EC, and it has been true of "Euroenthusiasts" ever since. Thus, the full implications of the potential federalism to which Britain was committed were not explained to the electorate; instead, there was a pragmatic stress on the apparent advantages of membership.

Yet, these were always less for Britain than for other states. The real source of British alienation from the EC is the fact that the British did not share the interests of other states in joining a multinational body of that type. The EEC was generated by particular interpretations of national interest on the Continent. France wanted the European Coal and Steel Community and the EEC to control Germany; she wished to...

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