The United Kingdom vis-a-vis the European Union


Human Wrongs Watch

By Cristina Cabrejas Artola – TRANSCEND Media Service

In 1951 the Treaty of Paris was signed to form the political and economic integration of 6 European countries: West Germany, Italy, France and the Benelux. The treaty advocated stability in the continent giving birth to the European Coal and Steel Community.

Cristina-Cabrejas-1-e1554021697599

Cristina Cabrejas-Artola

At the time coal and steel were the main energy sources in Europe, but Britain refrained from signing the treaty.

Winston Churchill, the UK’s Prime Minister who had led Europe to victory defeating Nazi Germany in 1945, had already envisioned an alternative to coal.  In fact, Churchill had settled to transform the UK’s energy from coal to oil.

It was essential, therefore, to colonise the Middle East, a region that had recently been discovered to be rich in oil.

Britain’s political, financial and sovereign interests lied in Africa, Asia and now the Middle East. Britain’s  defence security, however, continued to be in the heart of Europe against the threat of the political ideology of Communism.

The concept of creating a “United States of Europe” and Great Britain being an ally had been heavily encouraged by Churchill at the Hague Congress in 1948, just after World War II ended.

In 1957, only 6 years later, the UK is invited again to join the Treaty of Rome to establish the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community. But once again Britain refused to engage with the new Treaty as it still maintained the sovereignty of the Commonwealth Nations, and although bleak, trade was prevailing.

Its sovereignty was the pride of the imperial nation and the supra-nationalism that the two European treaties endorsed was a clear threat Britain’s supremacy.

During the 60’s, France under the leadership of President Charles de Gaulle vetoed Britain’s entry as he expressed his concern about Britain diminishing France’s position in the EEC and the influence of the Anglo-American relations in Europe.

It would take 24 years after the inception of the EEC, that on January 1st 1973 UK together with Denmark and the Republic of Ireland, that finally Britain joined the European block. Charles De Gaulle had already resigned.

The imperial economic power had receded and for a number of decades it had been receiving loans from the IMF. Britain was in utter turmoil and a state of emergency had been declared.

High unemployment with dissatisfied trade unions, miner’s strikes, low wages, banking crisis due to low credits and high inflation at 8.4%, the price of oil due to the Arab-Israeli war quadrupled and resulted in frequent power cuts.

Only two years later, in 1975 under Labour party, a national referendum was called to  leave or to remain the EEC. The later won by a majority of 67% based on free trade and agricultural subsidies.

When Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s prime minister in 1979, her conviction to deter immigration and increase national employment was crucial to shift from a Labour government that was unable to restore social and financial order, to a conservative government that was ready to create jobs and stabilize the country.

Thatcher used foreign immigration as a threat to British national employment whilst agreeing to free movement of people, goods and services within the EEC establishment.

Although it was hard to see a plausible alternative to Britain’s economic and social crisis, yielding its sovereignty to Europe’s supra-nationalism, the hard defenders of national imperialism or so called Eurosceptics, continued to defend Churchill’s idea to seek political and financial interests away from Europe.

The only difference was that by the 70’s, the British colonies in Africa, Asia and Middle East had been lost.

From a historical perspective, Eurosceptics continue to relish Britain’s economic status and international political dominance. It is currently the 5th largest economy in the world, and 2ndlargest in the EU.  This is a strong position to be confident about the country’s future without the subjugation of a slow growing EU economy.

The supremacy of the European Parliament influenced by USA policies and banking system which was clearly anticipated by General de Gaulle in the 50’s, together with Germany leading the EU policies, are the main factors that render the EU an anti-democratic institution with Britain’s limited influence.

Moreover, the Pound Sterling has remained stronger than the Dollar and the Euro in the past 15 years, although British banks like Barclays and HSBC agreed that this year’s Brexit will lead to market uncertainty, unemployment, decreased in trade and could even trigger a drop of 11% similar to the financial collapse in 2008.

Nevertheless, such a financial collapse seems to be more conceivable than joining the increasing debt crisis that Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain have endured since joining the Euro or joining the EU fiscal union official plan for 2025. At the moment, the Eurozone fiscal system accounts for 0.5% of GDP, whereas in the UK it is nearly 8%.

Britain will need to replace its Euro trade agreements and renegotiate new ones with the Commonwealth nations, (Australia, New Zealand, Canada amongst many others), BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) the Middle East, Africa and USA.

The rebirth of imperial or rather independent Britain could be on the horizon following the aspirations of Churchill. But ironically there are major concerns that Britain could crumble internally. Scotland could gain its long awaited independence, as well as Northern Ireland joining the Republic of Ireland to continue under the umbrella of the EU – a political right that Brexit has deprived these two countries from.

Indeed Brexit brings the promise of Britain regaining its national sovereignty, but quite possibly, at the cost of losing its national regional borders.

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*Cristina Cabrejas-Artola is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. She holds a Master’s degree in International Relations by Middlesex University in Dubai.

Her career priorities include engaging in community programs and improving the Arab identity through sports and cultural events. She previously served as a business conflict mediator in the Middle East.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 1 Apr 2019. TMS: The United Kingdom vis-a-vis the European Union

2019 Human Wrongs Watch

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