As Europe resolves its future, Britain returns to its past

Yesterday, as heads of the seventeen eurozone nations met to grind out a resolution to the ongoing crisis plaguing European markets, the commencement of the Commonwealth Summit served to underline the UK’s position as all too willing political outsiders.

In fact, this week the UK has once again proven to be the awkward partner of Europe, completely out of touch with its counterparts and almost guilty of displaying an ‘I told you so’ attitude towards the tumultuous plight of the eurozone, puzzlingly nonchalant towards the interconnectedness of European economies, including its own.

Jose Manuel Barrosso emerging from the eurozone talks in Brussels

Not happy with missing out on the vital talks, earlier in the week, the Commons held a debate on Britain’s future membership of the EU. In principle, considering the public’s general attitude towards EU membership coupled with the negative attitudes held across the political spectrum by mainstream MPs and backbenchers alike, this is a wholly plausible debate. However, the timing seemed so ill-advised and genuinely unhelpful to the rest of Europe it defied belief.

Then comes the Commonwealth Summit in Chogm, Perth. Despite the wishes of those who look wistfully back to the days of colonial Britain, the Commonwealth, while undoubtedly an important historical tie, is not the way for the UK to thrust itself into political significance and certainly not the answer to the current economic crisis engulfing the nation. Unlike the ‘glorious’ past, the EU are now the UK’s predominant trading partners and the fact that our Prime Minister was in Perth debating changes to the monarchy rather than being involved in discussions vital to the future of that organisation’s economic wellbeing is frankly embarrassing.

Now, regardless of the debate over the continued existence of the monarchy, the decision to finally make amendments to the laws of succession is a welcome one. In our times, it’s odd that men should still succeed to the throne in favour of their older sisters. But this is so miniscule an issue at this time, that it’s just plain bizarre that Britain, a country that regards itself so focal to the international political and economic system, has spent such an important week on the sidelines of Europe, a main centre of power, choosing to instead focus on re-evaluating its position as an EU member before switching its attention to the Commonwealth.

Queen Elizabeth II's coronation.

Arguably, the root source of the eurosceptism that blights the British discourse on the EU is founded on a superiority complex dating back to our nation’s colonial past. Since the end of WWII this has not been the case, but yet critics and the public hark on convinced that this relatively small isle is still the powerful nation it once was. A nation’s pride so damaged by its own fall that instead of accepting its position within the world order, consecutive governments have moved us along in blissful ignorance of our re-orientation. Unlike the Commonwealth, Europe is the real opportunity to prove significant in the 21st century and once again the UK has proven to be a step out of sync. It remains to be seen whether this will come back to haunt us in the coming years, as the pound looks increasingly weak and the eurozone perhaps grows once more.

Kenneth Way.


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