Over past 40years, more than any other issue, Europe has changed the nature of the politics of the UK. And the UK has often been called a “reluctant partner” of the EU.
How can such an attitude be explained?
This reluctant to Europe is the result of a large number of factors.
3 main elements can be identified:
UKinsularity (fact it's an island);
status as a former colonial power;
The UK's insularity
Geographical notion. Both political and psychological consequences. It protected it from invasion in 1066 (Norman invasion). Contributed to its independence. On the contrary, continental states have experienced many invasions, and as a consequence these nations saw EU unity as anecessity. Insularity also means that the UK is at the same time a part of Europe but separate from the Continent. Winston Churchill fancily declared in 1953 “We are with Europe but not of it... We are linked but not comprised... We are interested and associated but not absorbed.” UK has been a kind of bridge between EU and USA. Therefor it refused to belong to one side or another. Finally insularityhas had psychological consequences, part of British mentalities and identities. Fact that UK hasnt been invaded since 1066 means that it must be able to develop its own Institution, gradually and internally. And it also means that foreign influences has not been imposed to ppl for ….
The Institution and Ideologies which result from that slow evolution are quite unique.
The UK was the firstparliamentary monarchy.
The first country to experience the industrial revolution, it invented economic and political liberalism. Some of Institution and Ideologies were later copied in many other countries.
Psychological point of view: insularity given it a feeling of uniqueness, of self-sufficiency, of unity, of protection, of cultural superiority. Led the UK to behave in a narrow-mindedand Conservative way. However, insularity cannot explain everything. In fact, important influences have come from outside the UK too (successively invaded by the Celts, the Romans, the Vikings, the Anglo-saxons, the Normans).
Used to qualify culture … emphasizes the links with the Continent, since the Anglos Saxons came from Germany, and the other important influence are the Normans who come fromFrance. On the other hand, what is important is not whether UK is insular of not but the perception that the British have had of it. Depending on political circumstances, these factors of insularity has been more or less important.
The UK's imperial preference
Insularity not synonymous with isolation. Until the end of WWII, UK was the heart of a huge international empire, starting in the16thc, and the Queen Elizabeth 1st England started establish colonies all over the world. (example: state of Virginia in the US).
Second half of 19th Queen Victoria, the UK extended its colonial empire to include 20% of the land surface of the world. UK established itself as the most powerful nation in the world. This huge empire started to collapse in the early 20th when Canada, Australia, NewZealand and South Africa became Dominions (self-governing). After WWII India became independent too, in 1947, and all the African colonies became independent in the 1960s. Most of these colonies, decided to maintain links with the UK with was for them the “mother country”, as members of the Commonwealth
The Commonwealth is a “voluntary association of independent states”, it has 59 membersincluding the UK and most of them are former colonies, within the CW, states have now equal status. It includes 1/3 of the world population. Queen Elizabeth is at the head of the Commonwealth and still has constitutional functions in some Commonwealth nations.
For the UK what is the most important features of the CW is that it gave to the UK preferential commercial links with CW members. CW had...