Britain and the European Union: the Impact of Membership




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Peer reviewed



Britain’s relationship with the European Economic Community (EEC)/European Union (EU) has been subject to numerous studies that have often concluded it to be something of a ‘reluctant’ or ‘awkward’ partner (George, 1998). Orthodox interpretations of the initial British policy towards the EEC stress that it ‘missed opportunities’ by not fully engaging in the efforts which resulted in the Treaties of Rome. For a long time, such interpretations, which focused on the policy preferences of Prime Ministers from Clement Attlee to Anthony Eden, dominated the analysis of Britain’s relationship with the EU. In contrast to this viewpoint, other scholars have noted that although it is possible to conclude in retrospect that Britain could have played a fuller part in the history of European integration if governments had taken a more positive attitude from the outset, the decisions that had to be taken in the 1940s and 1950s were by no means as clear cut as some academics would point out. Thus, while British trade was no doubt declining in the post-world war two era, it continued to be an influential trading nation. Many revisionist writers have therefore attempted to highlight the fact that while the choices that Britain faced in the post-1945 period may appear obvious today, they were far from clear to decision-makers within government at the time. But although such an argument can be levied at the decisions taken in the early years of the European project, the fact of the matter remains that Britain has spent a considerable amount of its time as a EU member state in disagreement with the aims of many other member states and European institutions. One impact of this has been that its relationship with the European integration project has continued to maintain a strong academic interest from historians to political scientists.



Britain and Europe, Europeanisation


Blair, A. (2004) Britain and the European Union: the Impact of Membership. British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 6 (4) pp. 609-615


Research Institute