Reluctant European: Britain and the European Union from 1945 to Brexit: Sir Stephen Wall

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  • Cambridge Law Faculty published this video item, entitled “Reluctant European: Britain and the European Union from 1945 to Brexit: Sir Stephen Wall” – below is their description.

    Speaker: Sir Stephen Wall, Former Foreign Policy Adviser Biography: 35 years a member of the British Diplomatic Service. He worked closely with five British Foreign Secretaries and was Foreign Policy Adviser to Prime Minister John Major. European experience includes five years as Head of the Foreign Office European Department; two years as Britain’s Ambassador to Portugal; five years as UK Permanent Representative to the EU and four years as EU adviser to Tony Blair. He has written four books on Britain and the European Union. Abstract: In 2016, the voters of the United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union. The majority for ‘Leave’ was small. Yet, in more than forty years of EU membership, the British had never been wholeheartedly content. In the 1950s, governments preferred the Commonwealth to the Common Market. In the 1960s, successive Conservative and Labour administrations applied to join the European Community because it was a surprising success, whilst the UK’s post-war policies had failed. But the British were turned down by the French. When the UK did join, twelve years after first asking, it joined a club whose rules had been made by others and which it did not much like. At one time or another, Labour and Conservative were at war with each other and internally. In 1975, the Labour government held a referendum on whether the UK should stay in. Two thirds of the voters decided to do so. But the wounds did not heal. Europe remained ‘them’, not ‘us’. The UK was on the front foot in proposing reform and modernization and on the back foot as other EU members wanted to advance to ‘ever closer union’. This is the story of a relationship rooted in a thousand years of British history, and of our sense of national identity in conflict with our political and economic need for partnership with continental Europe. For more information about the Centre for European Legal Studies regular events see: https://www.cels.law.cam.ac.uk/weekly-seminar-series

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