• The EU Was Always Anti-British

    When the Second World War came to an end, the British heaved a sigh of relief and satisfaction and looked forward to receiving the gratitude of a Europe that had been rescued from Nazi tyranny.  But gratitude proved to be, perhaps not entirely surprisingly, in short supply.

    The Germans and Italians had, after all, suffered a humiliating defeat – and Gaullist France felt humiliated for a different reason; they resented the fact that they had had to depend on the British  to recover their freedom.  And these former enemies could find common cause in cutting the British down to size.  These anti-British sentiments proved to be significant to the future development of Europe and strongly influenced the form taken by that development.

    It seemed to escape British notice that the early stages of European integration were deliberately undertaken by the French and Germans bilaterally, and in such a way as to exclude the British, and that they adopted policies that were deliberately and directly inimical to British interests.  The Common Agricultural Policy, if foisted on the British, would inevitably disrupt and eventually destroy traditional British trading patterns, particularly those with the Commonwealth, and free trade in manufactures would suit a renascent German industry, benefiting as it was from the Marshall Plan.

    These attitudes continued to be manifested throughout the period of the Gaullist veto on British membership and – once membership was eventually achieved – stymied unsuccessful British attempts to achieve a European regime more suited to take account of British interests; and continued through to the obstacles placed in the way of the decision to terminate British membership and of the attempts to agree a sensible post-Brexit trading relationship.  The fundamental European attitude to such issues was essentially one of resentment at any suggestion of British exceptionalism and a conviction that European and British interests could never be expected to converge.

    The British never adapted themselves to the fact that the basic stance – even raison d’être – of the EU was anti-British.  The EU’s current stance on the availability of coronavirus vaccines and their attempt to weaponise that issue by linking it to the Brexit deal on the border between the EU and Northern Ireland is just another instance of inherent EU attitudes – that “Europe” must always come first, and that British interests will always diverge and must always therefore be disregarded and rejected with hostility.

    What this means is that the European future will remain gravely disadvantaged by anti-British sentiment which will continue to prejudice the chances of a sensible and productive relationship between the two neighbours.  After more than half a century, it is time for the British to understand that the “Europe” that some in the UK still seem to hanker for never existed.  If a new Europe is to take shape, it will have to give proper weight to everyone’s interests.

    Bryan Gould
    1 February 2021