Sunday 19 February 2017

Arguments for Brexit always held that Britain would get a soft deal, but it is about to learn some hard truths

Peter Foster

Published 15/07/2016 | 02:30

New British Prime Minister Theresa May arriving at No 10 Downing Street yesterday to appoint her cabinet. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
New British Prime Minister Theresa May arriving at No 10 Downing Street yesterday to appoint her cabinet. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

For much of the last 43 years the British relationship with the European Union has been presented as fundamentally adversarial in nature - from Margaret Thatcher winning the rebate, to 'Up Yours Delors' [the famous headline from 'The Sun', calling on its readers to tell Jacques Delors - then President of the European Commission - "where to stuff his ECU", the single currency that would become the euro] and a decade of battles to escape the currency, the Schengen Area and the Social Chapter.

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However, despite all the fights over federalist ambitions, Britain still remained a member of the EU club, which explains why - often through gritted teeth - Europe's leaders gave the UK such privileged status, granting it a series of opt-outs from the project.

In February this year, as David Cameron conducted his 'renegotiation' with Europe, there was a widespread feeling in Brussels that the EU had once again bent over backwards to accommodate the Brits, offering a semi-legal "benefits brake" that would have reduced payouts to EU workers.

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