Restoration: D-Day for Britain

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D-Day for Britain

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On June 6, 1944, the Allied armies massed in Britain threw themselves across the English Channel against Hitler's Fortress Europe. It was the beginning of the end for the latest attempt to unite Europe under one system of rule. Within a year Hitler's dream of a restored Reich crumbled under the assault.

This June the latest effort to unite Europe under one banner will likely take a significant step forward when the European constitution is put forward for ratification by member countries. This will follow the accession of 10 more countries this month as the union expands to 25 members. If it is ratified, it will represent another key pillar in the foundation of what many call a rising superpower, a United States of Europe that could one day rival the United States in not just economic, but military power.

The key is that every member country will have to ratify the constitution for it to take binding effect on the European Union. Last month British Prime Minister Tony Blair reversed himself and announced that he would put the constitution to a referendum of the British electorate. The people will have the final say whether the nation will bring itself under the terms of this document. To do so would result in loss of a significant share of national sovereignty.

Blair has been a staunch proponent of Britain's future with Europe, while at the same time being America's strongest and most reliable ally in the perpetual "special relationship" between the two nations. The nation has been ambivalent since joining the union (then called the EEC) in 1973. To this date Britain retains the pound sterling as its currency, shunning the euro. The outcome of a vote on the constitution appears uncertain at best.

"Euroskepticism" has been rising in Britain while support for further integration has increased in Europe. Wolfgang Munchau speculates in a recent Financial Times that "a No vote would effectively end Britain's membership of the EU." It could lead to a "call on London either to reconsider, or to withdraw" (April 26, 2004, p. 13).

Fallout from rejection could possibly set up a second vote that might include the question of continuing membership in the union. All this could be a significant factor leading to a redesign of the existing structure to a "core Europe," led by France and Germany. This "new Europe" could pursue more aggressive policies that would lead to reshaping the current world order.

Combine this with deep continental resentment toward American policy in the Middle East and the proven ability of terrorism to alter national policy, and the stage is being set for a different scene than some of the actors might imagine. Prime Minister Blair's support of American intervention in Iraq may yet turn against his designs for Britain, resulting in isolation from the present European Union.

The dream of European Union is a "siren call of utopia." Its dramatic and enticing themes waft across the English Channel drawing Britain away from its historic spiritual connection to its American brothers. Melvin Rhodes further discusses this special relationship in this issue in his article on the EU referendum (p. 10). A day of decision is approaching for Britain. Will it give yet more power and authority to another larger sovereign? To continue to do so would forever change its historic role and mission in the world. It would narrow the Channel, the historic barrier to the Continent. Time will tell whether the nation finds itself traveling a bridge to the future or isolated in its own neighborhood, alone in a new world.—WNP