In his Iron Curtain speech Winston Churchill was honest enough to explain that European unity was an excellent thing for the Continent, but that Britain would applaud from the sidelines.
When the Council of Europe began operating in 1949, Ernest Bevin and the Foreign Office saw to it that member governments gave it no real teeth. This policy was pursued consistently by HMG throughout the Fifties and Sixties. When in opposition, authentic Europeans such as Harold Macmillan or Roy Jenkins spoke up convincingly in the Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg, but as soon as they assumed governmental responsibility they relapsed into Foreign Office negativism, or even tried to sabotage the emerging European Community. Only Ted Heath showed himself to be a loyal European while at the top.
Finally, Britain understood that her sheer self-interest made it inescapable for her to join the club. But the spirit of sabotage continued to lurk, culminating in the series of disasters of the Thatcher regime.
Now we have incontrovertible proof of the cynical contempt with which her Government betrayed the trust of the peoples of the Continent in 1988, selling off poisoned goods under false pretences.
Not since the Belgrano went down have I felt it so difficult to look my neighbours here in the face.
The writer was clerk of the Parliamentary Assembly from 1971-1986Reuse content