This Blessed Plot: Britain and Europe from Churchill to Blair

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9780879519391: This Blessed Plot: Britain and Europe from Churchill to Blair
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With pervasive authority and great wit, an acclaimed historian and biographer creates a compelling and comprehensive narrative of Britain's post-World War II relationship with the rest of Europe.

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"This is the story of fifty years in which Britain struggled to reconcile the past she could not forget with the future she could not avoid."

So opens Hugo Young's magisterial tour of the U.K.'s troubled relationship with Europe in general and the European Union in particular over the last half of the 20th century. Young, the doyen of liberal political columnists, has chosen to take on this subject at a time when the British Right remains in angry torment over it and the Labour Party appears to have at last made its peace with the Continent and all its works. The book opens with Churchill's putting on record for the first time an outline of a new united Europe, but it ends with Blair's actually "preparing to align the island with its natural hinterland beyond." In between there is a fascinating battle between wide-eyed idealism, brutal realpolitik, and treacherous conspiracy. Young has talked to everyone who matters on both sides of the Channel and elegantly produces a gripping narrative. In British terms, this is the story of half a century of wrecked political careers, ending up most recently with John Major's cataclysmic defeat in 1997. But on the wider stage, this is the story of a great question--Is Britain a European country?--and why Britain found it so difficult to answer. --Nick Wroe, Amazon.co.uk

From Kirkus Reviews:

Young, award-winning British political columnist for the Guardian (The Iron Lady: A Biography of Margaret Thatcher, 1989, etc.), offers an exhaustively argued, and sometimes scathingly contemptuous, account of the misgivings, policy blunders, and deceptions that accompanied Britain's descent from imperial power to European Union member. In Britain, in rapid decline after WWII as a colonial power but with its industrial capacity and institutions intact, and the sole unambiguous European victor of the war, attitudes toward European unity were more ambivalent than on the continent. Britain settled into a pattern of vacillation that has persisted to the present day. Young traces the evolution of the ``European idea'' from its genesis as a half-serious daydream of Winston Churchill's to the euro-ready entity of Tony Blair's era. At all times, the author argues, British leaders were consistent in their inconstancy, publicly arguing for European unity while often privately ignoring and pointlessly resisting the seemingly inexorable British devolution into the European orbit. Britain resisted entry into the economic community until 1973, after the basic structure of the European polity had been created without her leadership. This resistance was typical, says Young: ultimately, Britain did choose the fate her leaders long resisted or failed fully to embracebut only after a period of time in which much opportunity was, by sheer lapse of time, wafted.'' While Young, an apparent Europhile, attacks Euro-ascetics like Ernest Devin and Michael Portillo as purblind, the proponents of British integration into Europe do not receive gentle treatment, eitherhe charges that the consent of the British people was never sought even as aspects of national sovereignty were being surrendered, a process that he calls ``subterfuge most foul.'' In the end, Young asserts, the British political class failed its people all around, with long-range consequences for Britain and Europe itself. A provocative and contentious work, bound to be controversial but clearly essential to the reader who seeks to understand the evolving politics of the European Union. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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