Theresa May is no Maggie Thatcher! Though just as dogged, the current British Prime Minister, lacking Thatcher’s true grit, is paying for centuries of British disdain for ‘the continent’. Although it carries the prestigious Eurostar train, the ‘Chunnel’ came too late to inculcate a British sense of ‘togetherness’.
Although Queen Elizabeth offered de Gaulle a relatively safe haven (discounting Germany’s air assault on the island) from which to direct the French resistance, as chronicled by the first of three Frenchmen, including the poet Alexis Leger, to join him, in a book aptly titled ‘No Laurels for De Gaulle’, the general never forgave Churchill and Roosevelt for the way they treated him. I worked with Robert Mengin in the early sixties when he headed AFP’s Rome bureau while writing the book that chronicled the allies’ failure’ to recognize France’s ‘grandeur’ in the war against Nazi Germany — and in the allocation of the colonial spoils of war. What motivated Mengin to relate De Gaulle’s time in Great Britain at a time after he became President of France was the fact that unlike other leaders, he demanded that those joining him commit their signatures to backing the political career he was already planning.
Getting back to Great Britain’s European trajectory, it had disdained to join the 1955 Coal and Steel Community, which was largely propelled by France’s Jean Monnet and Germany’s Konrad Adenauer, only deigning in 1973 to join a successful European Union after De Gaulle’s death. The Brexit vote harks back to Margaret Thatcher’s 1989 “I want my money back”, which secured a budget rebate and was followed by other demands, including:
not having to abandon the British pound in favor of the euro
not participating in the Schengen Treaty that regulates immigration from outside the Union
to choose whether or not to participate in EU freedom, security and justice measures,
Starting in 2014, to no longer apply many EU police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters.
Theresa May’s attempt to leave the Community while keeping one foot in the door, following a vote that reflected the British population’s skittish attitude toward the European family, could not possible warm the hearts of its leaders. The response of Jean-Claude Junker, President of the the EU Commission, roundly echoed by French President Emanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel is nothing less than payback for centuries of British demands for ‘exceptional’ treatment.
Actually, in one respect, Europe should welcome a British semi-withdrawal since it would no longer be the eyes and ears of the US in Europe. While it may be an exaggeration to blame the US for all of Europe’s current woes, given its centuries-long history of internal conflict, it is undeniable that America’s military and economic policies have resulted in massive migrations from Africa and the Middle East which not only burden the social and economic system, but threaten to once again separate Europeans into an Eastern and a Western bloc.
Curiously, never mentioned is the fact that at the time when the West was bathing in the Enlightenment, Eastern Europe was living under Ottoman rule, which at least partly explains the latter’s refusal to accept Muslim immigrants. (Whether related or not, in the run-up to the Second World War, Eastern European governments tended to be right-wing, sliding effortlessly into alliances with Hitler and Mussolini.) As 2018 comes to a close, all Europeans will remember that ten years ago, the same country that had saved them together with the USSR from becoming part of a thousand year Reich, brought them a second depression that threatened the very survival of the welfare state (a fact currently illustrated by France’s yellow vests).
The upshot of all of this is that with Great Britain no longer playing the role of the American deep state’s Trojan Horse, Europe will increasingly turn from a dying Atlantic Alliance toward a rising Eurasian continent.
Deena Stryker is an international expert, author and journalist that has been at the forefront of international politics for over thirty years, exlusively for the online journal “New Eastern Outlook”.