The Schuman Plan and the British Abdication of Leadership in Europe

A formidable indictment of Britain's historic failure to endorse the Schuman plan for a coal and steel community and thus join the continental effort at political reconciliation and economic integration. Edmund Dell, a scholar and former minister in the Wilson and Callaghan governments, points out the lack of imagination and clumsiness of Bevin's diplomacy toward Europe. Resentment against the failure of the French to give advance notice of their plan to London, and hostility to a supranational authority, became the driving forces for rejection. Dell argues that Britain, by taking part in the negotiations, could have influenced the institutional outcome and thus remained a key player in the European game instead of abandoning the leadership to France. He does a subtle and perceptive job of analyzing the reasons for British complacency. The British had a sense of superiority toward the continentals, a profound distrust of Germany, and a lack of sympathy for the Catholic statesmen across the channel. They also feared interference with their socialist policies, their relations with the commonwealth, and their dollar account. Finally, there was a certain contempt for Europe's socialists, a conviction that left to themselves the continentals would fail, and a resentment toward America's bossiness. (Washington's pressure for a federal Europe wounded British pride.) Dell's examination of the diplomatic record, of the Labour party's stand, and of the press is devastating.

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