A Stranger in Europe: Britain and the EU from Thatcher to Blair

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For over twenty years Sir Stephen Wall was at the heart of Whitehall, working for a succession of British leaders as they shaped Britain's policy towards the European Union. He was there behind the scenes when Margaret Thatcher took on the rest of Europe to 'get her money back'. He was with John Major at Maastricht where the single European currency was born. He was with Tony Blair as a negotiator of the EU's Amsterdam, Nice and Constitutional Treaties. As a senior official in London, as Britain's ambassador to the European Union and as Tony Blair's senior official adviser on Europe he saw Prime Ministers and Foreign Secretaries define, defend and promote Britain's interests in Europe. Drawing on that experience, Stephen Wall traces a British journey from 1982 to the present as successive British governments have wrestled with their relationship with their fellow EU partners, with the European Commission and the European Parliament.

A Stranger in Europe goes behind the scenes as Margaret Thatcher and her successors have sought to reconcile Britain's national and European interests. Drawing on the official documents of the period, he gives a unique insight into how Britain's leaders have balanced objective assessment of Britain's wishes; political, press and public pressures; their own political instincts and the aims, interests and personalities of their fellow European leaders. We see Britain's Prime Ministers in intimate discussion with other EU leaders. We experience how Britain's top politicians motivated the best civil servants of their day and how those civil servants, in turn, sought to turn political instructions into negotiating successes. Above all, we see people at the top of their game trying to promote the British national interest and be good Europeans at the same time.

Stephen Wall analyses both Britain's successes and our failures and shows how, despite the differences of declared aim, and huge differences of personality, Britain's political leaders have in practice followed very similar paths. He concludes that Britain has been an awkward partner, often at odds with her partners: a stranger in Europe. But with dogged determination and seriousness of purpose Britain's leaders have nonetheless done much to shape and reform the modern Europe in which we live today.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[A Stranger in Europe] relates in gory detail the European experience of three prime ministers - Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Mr. Blair."—The Economist
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199284559
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 7/2/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Wall spent his career in the British Diplomatic Service. For over twenty years he specialized in European policy, working for British Foreign Secretaries and Prime Ministers. He was for five years Britain's ambassador to the European Union and later EU adviser to Tony Blair. He helped negotiate all the EU treaties from the Single European Act to the EU Constitution. He continues to write and lecture about the European Union. Married with one son, Stephen Wall lives in London and Northumberland.

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Table of Contents

1. The Start of a Troubled Relationship. "I am not puttable offable": Money, the veto and European Union
2. The Dynamics of a Deal
3. European Union or European unity? The Campaign for the Single Market
4. The Single European Act and Economic & Monetary Union
5. The Euro and Union: Thatcher, Major and Fin de Regime
6. At the Heart of Europe: the Road to the Maastricht Treaty
7. Success Turned Sour: From Maastricht to Mad Cow Disease
8. "A New Dawn Has Broken Has It Not? " New Labour and the European Union
9. How the British Government's European Policy is made
10. A Stranger in Europe

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2008

    Foreign Office treachery

    Stephen Wall worked in the Foreign Office¿s European Communities Department from 1983 to 1988, was Private Secretary to successive Foreign Secretaries from 1988 to 1993, Ambassador to Portugal 1993 to 1995, Ambassador to the EU from 1995 to 2000 and Blair¿s senior adviser on the EU from 2000 to 2004. As he writes, ¿It is undoubtedly true that the Foreign Office has, since the 1960s, been a pro-European department.¿ Since retiring he has worked for `Britain in Europe¿. So we know what to expect from this book. He writes that John Major saw national sovereignty as a `commodity to be used for national advantage, not some untouchable heirloom to be hoarded at all costs¿ and that this `has been the policy pursued ever since¿. This exposes the bipartisan policy of selling our sovereignty piece by piece. He admits that Economic and Monetary Union, which he passionately supported, `was a step towards a federal Europe¿. Even now, he claims that the EU¿s disastrous Exchange Rate Mechanism was good for us and he sneers at the `self-righteousness¿ of those who opposed our joining it. He notes that Thatcher, Major and Blair all back the EU - truly part of the ruling class consensus. So also is the belief that Thatcher was `an undoubtedly great Prime Minister¿, as he puts it. He laments that Britain is a `stranger in Europe¿ because of `the lack of deep-seated public support in Britain for the European project¿. He believes that this is because governments, for some unknown reason, have done too little to explain to the British people the true nature of the European project. Obviously, we are too stupid to understand the sublime intentions of our dear leaders. He describes the Danish people¿s vote against the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 as the `failure¿ of their referendum. He clearly thinks that it would be folly to hold a referendum on the EU Constitution. Who needs democracy when we have superb mandarins like Wall to think for us? Who needs sovereignty when the wonderful EU will do everything for us?

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