Beyond that highly motivated group, the wider British establishment view was that it was best not to cause a fuss by being overly obstructive or confrontational. Yes, the original integrationists had some wild ideas about abolishing the nation state; but this was mainly flowery European rhetoric, wasn't it? Surely the real purpose of Europe was trade and, of course, making it easier to go on holiday in Tuscany or Provence. By a process of diplomacy, which rests on compromise, excessive awkwardness could be avoided and difficulties smoothed over. Many times a British public that had always been sceptical of "Brussels" was assured by the Foreign Office and its allies in the media that "we" (i.e. they) were "winning the argument in Europe", which was meant to suggest that other countries were coming round to our point of view on particular negotiating points. This was delusional. We weren't winning the big argument on Europe; usually we were avoiding it.
In this way, the official response to the European problem, ever since Harold Macmillan first applied for EEC membership in 1961, has been very British. David Cameron, a pragmatist who simply wanted his party to stop arguing about Europe for long enough to get him into Downing Street, is squarely in this tradition.
Having got into power, thanks to a coalition with the federalist Liberal Democrats, Cameron was confronted with the Eurocrisis. The Prime Minister would really rather not be dealing with this. He has an increasingly agitated group of backbenchers — including many of his party's brightest young talents — agitating either for a renegotiation or for a referendum on withdrawal. And it is his historical misfortune to have Nick Clegg as a deputy, a Lib Dem who is a former Brussels bureaucrat and such a Eurofanatic that he makes Tony Blair look like Daniel Hannan.
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