Earlier this month, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Philip Gordon visited London to give Prime Minister David Cameron his instructions: Washington wants Britain inside the EU, so it can blunt Europe’s anti-American impulses and the idea of an independent European quasi-state.
Cameron is set to speak later this month on renegotiating the terms of U.K. membership in the EU. He is under heavy pressure to call a referendum on continued British membership, which he could lose. Whatever Washington thinks or wants, Cameron is wrestling with powerful popular resistance to Europe in Britain, which is capable of bringing down his Conservative-Liberal coalition government.
History is probably the most powerful force against him. It is extremely difficult for a people to pry open the grip that history has upon their nation—any nation. In Britain, the history of relations with continental Europe is one of threat. Putting aside its earliest history of occupation by migrant peoples from the north, and the Roman conquest, the most powerful influence on England culturally since 1066 has been that of continental Europe and the Normans, who made England their colony in the 11th century, pushing aside the native rulers and imposing a French-speaking aristocracy.
Today, the perceived threat is that of Franco-German European domination and rule by a “Frenchified” EU bureaucracy, which consults intellectualized Roman/Napoleonic law rather than Anglo-Saxon Common Law (which simply follows precedent), meddles in affairs the British prefer to settle at home and represents a continent that in the past harbored dynasties (Hapsburg, Bourbon, Carolingian, Hohenzollern) that always made trouble for Britain. ..................(more)