We are repeatedly told that Britain is a European nation whose destiny lies at its very heart, yet history and geography would suggest otherwise according to Professor Robert Tombs.
"Like it or not, we are on the edge, as our eventual relationship with the EU ought to reflect. “Europe” is there, not here. Even the keenest British federalists talk about it as a different place which they wistfully dream of being part of. Semi-detachment runs through our history. We have had shifting relationships with different parts of the continent, so that it is hard even to say with which we have most affinity."
Our historic alliances in Europe have been entirely pragmatic, designed above all to maintain a balance of power and included Catholic and Protestant states, monarchies, democracies and dictatorships.
Furthermore, "The lure of opportunity overseas pulled us away from Continental ambitions. Though the Glorious Revolution of 1688 began the “second hundred years war” with France, ending only at Waterloo, the struggle became increasingly global, fought not only on the plains of Flanders, but in India and America. "
President de Gaulle knew us better than we knew ourselves when he vetoed our entry into the Common Market in 1963: "an island, sea-going, bound up, by its trade, its markets, its food supplies, with the most varied and often the most distant countries."
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