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Ever closer union?

A new Europe
Britain shut out
Joining the
The Thatcher era
Backing away
from Union
Blair and euroland

Churchill outlines the need for a united Europe

A new Europe

Winston Churchill
Churchill was keen for Europe to unite
The seeds of European unity were first sown on the battlefields of World Wars I and II.

The conflicts devastated continental Europe, killing millions. In 1929 French Prime Minister Aristide Briand proposed a political integration of Europe.

After the second world war, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman put forward his plan to irrevocably link Germany and France together, making war "not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible".

Having faced each other across the battlefield three times within 80 years, France and Germany desperately needed to find a way to live side by side in peace.

Europe will not be made all at once or according to a single general plan Robert Schuman

These early plans were not just designed to link Europe together economically. Some of those working on the original blueprints - notably the French civil servant Jean Monnet - had the creation of a federal Europe as an ultimate goal.

The first step taken down the road of economic integration was the downbeat sounding European Coal and Steel Community.

Key Dates
1949Council of Europe
1950ECSC talks
1951ECSC treaty
1954EDC shelved
1955talks to form EEC
1957Treaty of Rome

France and Germany were joined in the ECSC by Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, making a core group of six nations.

Despite being invited to join, the British declined. They were content for the Europeans - among whom they did not necessarily see themselves - to press ahead with integration while they attempted to re-build Britain as a world power after six years of war at the end of World War II.

We must now build a kind of United States of Europe... the first steps must be a partnership between France and Germany Winston Churchill

The wartime prime minister Winston Churchill was happy to see western Europe begin to bind itself together, but he was equally happy to see the UK keep its distance.

The Labour cabinet that held power in the years immediately following the war rejected joining the ECSC to a man.

Treaty of Rome is signed
The UK believed itself to have closer ties to the Commonwealth, as well as the USA, and so sidelined itself, first over the ECSC and then again in 1955 as talks began in Messina to create a more ambitious sounding European Economic Community.

Having rejected the idea of taking part Britain left itself unable to help shape the EEC institutions set out in the 1957 Treaty of Rome.

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