Monday 5 December 2016

Why UK will never fully belong to the EU club

Published 28/01/2013 | 05:00

The German tabloid newspaper 'Bild' published a half-comical plea to Britain last week not to leave the European Union: the Germans would so miss the cavortings of Prince Harry, the saga of the Loch Ness monster, Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean, the Sex Pistols, London Mayor Boris Johnson, and the funky couture of Vivienne Westwood. "You taunt us as Krauts and your favourite word is 'Blitz'," ribbed the mass-market tabloid, "but please don't go ... we need your contrariness and your obstinacy in the face of a United Europe."

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'Bild' is unlikely to be Angela Merkel's chosen newspaper, but it probably expresses, in broad strokes, something of Ms Merkel's own view in the face of Prime Minister David Cameron's promise to hold an "in or out" referendum on Britain's place in the EU. It's healthy to have someone in the club who challenges some of the rules. In actual fact, it is very unlikely Britain would leave the European Union: but it is also unlikely that the UK, and particularly England, will ever be an entirely comfortable and fully integrated member of the EU club.

More than one historian has traced British half-heartedness about a united Europe back to the wars of religion starting in the 17th Century, when, essentially, Protestant Europe split from Catholic Europe, and produced a cultural division all over the Continent (and these islands), which has never gone away.

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