Britain inside or outside Europe?
There is a ‘Yes Minister’- episode called ‘The Writing on the Wall’ that brilliantly encapsulates Britain’s ambivalence towards Continental Europe. With barely suppressed exasperation, Sir Humphrey Appleby (de “secretaris-generaal” op een Brits ministerie – red.) explains to Jim Hacker (de minister – red.) the purpose of the UK’s policy. “Minister, Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last 500 years: to create a disunited Europe. In that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see. We tried to break the EEC up from the outside, but that wouldn’t work. Now that we’re inside we can make a complete pig’s breakfast of the whole thing.”
But surely we are now committed to the European ideal, Hacker avers. After all, Britain was particularly keen to bring lots of new countries into the “club”. Why did we do that? “For the same reason,” says Sir Humphrey. “It’s just like the United Nations – the more members it has, the more arguments it can stir up, the more futile and impotent it becomes. We call it diplomacy, Minister.”
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