Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Britain's long history of semi-detachment from Europe

Matt Ridley

Keeping the balance of power means resisting European power monopolies
My Times column on Britain's history with Europe:
[The prime minister argues that "when we turn out back on Europe, sooner or later we come to regret it" and cited 1704, 1805, 1914 and 1940 as examples. This is historical nonsense: in each case it was our separation from Europe that enabled Britain to liberate the continent from a monopolistic tyranny. Had we been integrated, the outcomes would have been different. I argued in my Times column that the existence of the Channel, and its narrowness, have made us inevitably involved in European affairs, but also inevitably resistant to absorption into European hegemonies.]
Whatever your views on Brexit, there is no doubting the peculiar agony of Britain’s relationship with its neighbouring continent. Ever since the day at the end of the last ice age that the sea broke through the chalky gorge between Dover and Calais, it has been our dilemma: are we separate from, or close to, the continent?
Such geographic determinism may seem facile, but consider that Japan is six times further from the nearest mainland than we are. If the Strait of Dover had been six times wider, we would never have joined the Common Market, because we would have had an even more distinct culture. If it had been one sixth as wide, we would be unlikely to be having this referendum because we would have been repeatedly incorporated into European empires and would feel far more blurred in our nationality."

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