The Corner

World

When did Conservative Euroskepticism Begin?

When did Conservative Euroskepticism begin? Was it under David Cameron or was it before? It was before, obviously.

In 1988, three hundred years after the glorious revolution, nearly 800 years after Magna Carta, then prime minister of Britain, Margaret Thatcher, addressed the College of Europe in what became known as “The Bruges Speech.”

She began with remarks on “the identity of Europe itself,” recognizing Britain as “heirs to the legacy of European culture as [much as] any other nation.” She said:

 . . . the whole history of America is quite different from Europe.

People went there to get away from the intolerance and constraints of life in Europe.

They sought liberty and opportunity; and their strong sense of purpose has, over two centuries, helped to create a new unity and pride in being American, just as our pride lies in being British or Belgian or Dutch or German.

I am the first to say that on many great issues the countries of Europe should try to speak with a single voice.

I want to see us work more closely on the things we can do better together than alone.

Europe is stronger when we do so, whether it be in trade, in defence or in our relations with the rest of the world.

But working more closely together does not require power to be centralised in Brussels or decisions to be taken by an appointed bureaucracy.

Indeed, it is ironic that just when those countries such as the Soviet Union, which have tried to run everything from the centre, are learning that success depends on dispersing power and decisions away from the centre, there are some in the Community who seem to want to move in the opposite direction.

We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.

Certainly we want to see Europe more united and with a greater sense of common purpose.

But it must be in a way which preserves the different traditions, parliamentary powers and sense of national pride in one’s own country; for these have been the source of Europe’s vitality through the centuries.

Madeleine Kearns is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute. She is from Glasgow, Scotland, and is a trained singer.

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