Labour's strategy for getting Britain into the euro is still too passive and economistic. Ministers should read this book, says former Robin Cook adviserby David Clark / November 20, 2001 / Leave a comment
As director of the single currency lobby group, Britain in Europe, Simon Buckby has one of the least enviable jobs in British politics. Launched two years ago to a fanfare of heavyweight support from Tony Blair, Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine, Britain in Europe has struggled to make headway in the face of unrelenting public opposition to euro entry, visceral media hostility and the refusal of the government to provide leadership on the issue.
To cap it all, Tony Blair’s first tentative steps towards a proper debate on the euro, heralded in his undelivered TUC speech of 11th September, became an early casualty of a war that is set to absorb government energies and media attention in the months ahead. Into this uncertain environment comes Made in Britain, Buckby’s attempt to set out a pro-European vision capable of mobilising a popular majority for euro entry.
Made in Britain fulfils its mandate to provide a readable, single volume summary of the argument for Britain’s wholehearted engagement in Europe, and does so with style and passion. Complex issues of economic and monetary union are made accessible. Euromyths are confidently debunked and post-imperial illusions exposed. The mantle of patriotism is snatched from the little Englanders and claimed for those who see the EU as a platform for greater national achievement. In place of the Treasury mantra of “prepare and decide,” and “five economic tests” is a desire, at long last, to treat the issue with the seriousness it deserves as the most fundamental strategic choice to face Britain in a generation.
Buckby’s starting point is the debate on national identity, and a frontal assault on the English exceptionalism-masquerading as Britishness-that informs the Eurosceptic view. Constructed on a series of national myths, this combination of insularity and superiority has exerted a distorting influence on Britain’s post-war approach to continental Europe.
At every stage, we have shunned European developments only to conclude at a later date that we cannot afford to be left behind. In doing so, we have failed to shape those developments. As Buckby points out, this reactive posture has been a betrayal of the national interest. His analysis stands as an important corrective to the false debate about Europe and its implications for national sovereignty. Successive British leaders, including Margaret Thatcher, have been inexorably drawn to the realisation that our most important interests are determined by events beyond our borders. It…