By Gideon Rachman
Twenty years ago, I was an anti-European. Today, I am a pro-European. The strange thing is that my views have not changed. I have always thought that Britain should stay out of the euro but inside the EU. During the John Major and Tony Blair years, when the euro was the dominant issue, that position made me a eurosceptic. But now the argument has become about whether Britain should leave the EU altogether. The front-line in Britain’s civil war over Europe has moved and, because I have stayed in the same place, I find myself on a different side of the battle-lines.
Britain’s future in the EU
Prime Minister David Cameron thought that his promise to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s membership of the EU, and to hold an in-out referendum on British membership in 2017 had bought him domestic political peace. Instead, many in his own Conservative party are agitating for an even harder-line position, and the anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party is soaring in opinion polls. An eventual British exit from the EU is looking increasingly possible. So what’s going on, and what do other Europeans make of it. Quentin Peel in Berlin joins Janan Ganesh and Gideon Rachman in London.
I have just returned from the annual “Polish-British Round Table” in Krakow. This year, the theme was – “Britain and Poland: A Shared Future?” After sitting through several hours of discussions, my conclusion was – “not necessarily”. In fact, it is quite startling how swiftly British and Polish viewpoints have diverged, since Poland joined the EU back in 2004. Read more
Margaret Thatcher and Giulio Andreotti – they didn't always see eye to eye
Tuesday’s FT contained a wonderful obituary of Giulio Andreotti, a man who managed to be prime minister of Italy no fewer than seven times – as well as serving as foreign minister for much of the 1980s. Yet, as the FT obituary notes, Andreotti’s life ended in semi-disgrace, with the former PM preferring to to travel to “those parts of the world where he was still treated with respect: notably Libya, Syria and Iran.”
The Andreotti story is not simply an Italian curiosity. For the former Italian PM was also a pivotal figure in the construction of Europe and in the debates that led to the formation of the European single currency. As such, he crops up quite frequently in Margaret Thatcher‘s autobiography – in ways that cast a revealing light on today’s debates and dilemmas. Read more
The Thatcher legacy
The past week in Britain has been a reminder of the bitterness of the politics of the 1980s as a vehement debate has broken out about the legacy of Margaret Thatcher since her death last week. For Conservatives, she remains a hero who rescued the British economy and helped to win the Cold War. But for the left, she was a villain who provoked social division and wrecked Britain’s relations with the European Union. Chris Giles, economics editor, and Philip Stephens, chief political commentator, join Gideon Rachman to attempt to arrive at a more nuanced verdict on the Iron Lady’s legacy — for Britain and the world.
In the week of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral – and with the euro-crisis bubbling along – it is interesting to take a look back at what Thatcher had to say about the single currency. Much of the commentary since her death has portrayed Thatcher’s views on Europe as irrational and backward-looking. For example, Anne-Marie Slaughter in the FT, wrote that “her attitude to Europe was a throwback to the 19th century”. For good measure, Prof Slaughter adds that Thatcher’s views were “deeply anachronistic and dangerous”. Of course, there was a strong element of emotion in Thatcher’s views of Europe. So what? It is more interesting to note that she also made some quite precise criticisms of the European single currency that look increasingly prescient, as time wears on. Read more
1) ECONOMICS The FT’s chief economics commentator, Martin Wolf, evaluates the impact of Baroness Thatcher on Britain’s economic performance both during her time in power and afterwards.
“For the UK, the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s did mark the first sustained period since the 19th century when GDP per head rose more than in the other large European economies. Unfortunately, the post-crisis economic malaise, the high inequality, the persistent regional imbalances and the over-reliance on an unstable financial sector mar this success.”
2) SOCIETY Hugo Young was a political columnist for the Guardian from 1984 until 2003, and wrote a biography of Margaret Thatcher, One of Us. Two weeks before he died, in 2003, he wrote this piece about Thatcher and her legacy. The Guardian published it on Monday. Young praises Thatcher’s self-confidence, and how little she cared if people liked her – a quality he notes is markedly lacking in today’s politicians. But he worries about the change in British social attitudes that she fostered: Read more
By Gideon Rachman
Margaret Thatcher had an impact on the global scene that is still playing out today. The three most important aspects of her legacy were her impact on globalisation, on the EU and on the cold war. Of the three, only the debates surrounding the cold war are now safely consigned to the past.
Baroness Thatcher in June 2010 (AFP/Getty)
Baroness Thatcher, the former UK prime minister, has died at age 87. Read more
Keep out – at least until the referendum (Getty)
The British government is said to be deeply concerned about the prospect of heavy migration into the UK from Bulgaria and Romania after restrictions on free movement of labour are lifted at the end of the year. I can understand why. David Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on British membership of the EU after the next election. Under current circumstances, the Brits would probably vote to stay inside the Union. But a surge of unpopular migration from Bulgaria and Romania could really poison sentiment ahead of the vote.
To be fair, even Migration Watch, the anti-immigration ginger group, is estimating that just 50,000 Bulgarians and Romanians will move when restrictions are lifted. Such a relatively small number could be absorbed into London without much fuss. The trouble is that experience with Polish migration proves all such estimates to be futile. Back in 2004, the UK government estimated that net migration from Poland and the other new member states would probably be in the order of 13,000 a year. In the event, more than 500,000 Poles are thought to have moved to the UK – although many move backwards and forwards. Read more