If you did not catch Nick Robinson's Europe: Them or Us? last night, I highly recommend catching up online. The programme set out Britain's turbulent history leading up to joining the Community in January 1973.
Could we have built a better Community if we had joined when invited to in the 1950s? Joining at the start would certainly have avoided the embarrassment of having our membership vetoed by Monsieur De Gaulle in 1963. The British establishment view in the 1950s seemed to be that the continentals would fail, so why waste time on silly projects? By the time we did join, the six had been building institutions and processes for twenty years. Might the organisation we have been part of for 40 years have been significantly more "British" if we had embraced the European Dream fully and wholeheartedly? Would the ECB be headquartered in Canary Wharf?
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At the end of the show, interviews with Ted Heath and a member of his cabinet recalled the Parliamentary antics needed to get the legislation through and, in the immediate aftermath of entry, the suggestion by the French of setting up a single currency. Heath's reaction: a shrug.
If the end result of a tightly-knit European union is regarded as a long-term inevitability, should Britain just swallow its medicine and get on with taking part? Should Britain learn to live with the lack of perfection of the project, the lack of direct democratic accountability, and get on with shaping the institutions as best it can? Or do we continue to assume that eventually the whole thing will unravel, or even prompt that unravelling by leaving?