By C. Schweiger
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Additional info for Britain, Germany and the Future of the European Union
However, things became even more challenging after the country had turned its back on Callaghan’s Labour government. Under Conservative Prime Minister Margaret, newly elected in 1979, Britain’s role in Europe changed from being an awkward partner towards becoming a genuine roadblock towards further progress. The Conservatives had been more pro-European than the Labour Party during the 1970s and Thatcher had previously appeared as a strong 26 Britian, Germany and the Future of the European Union supporter of British membership of the EEC, mainly for economic reasons (Thatcher, 2002, pp.
184). Thatcher’s successor Major, had to learn the hard way how much Mrs Thatcher had influenced the European attitude towards his own party and the general public. Although at the start of his premiership, Major had announced that his government would place Britain ‘at the very heart’ of Europe, he soon had to realise he was leading a party and government which was hopelessly divided over the question of Europe. The Major administration’s European policy was constantly undermined by the Thatcherites within the government and the party, which opposed any retreat from Thatcher’s hardline stance.
Britain’s hopes for a domestic economic revival as part of the previously booming Common European Market were consequently shattered. The Heath administration had promoted accession to the EEC to the British people on the basis of promising economic prospects. When subsequently they could not be realised, it led to great disillusionment amongst the British public. It was, therefore, not surprising that within a relatively short period of time, a renewed domestic discussion about the benefits of EEC membership emerged.
Britain, Germany and the Future of the European Union by C. Schweiger