Its no stun the divorce may get messy – its the end of a 60 -year love-hate relationship and the UKs commitment was always ambivalent

It had been on the rocks for years. But on a memorably stormy night last June, Britain decided its decades-long marriage with the EU has at last and irretrievably broken down. Today, it files for divorce.

As is usually the method, the nine intervening months have checked a lot of posturing. Britain has threatened to walk away if it does not get what it craves which looks like most of the benefits of wedlock without any of the obligations.

The EU has informed, repeatedly, that whatever agreement the two parties do contact on divided among the dimension, sorting out the money, concurring access to the children the future relationship must be worse for the UK than marriage.

It could all get fairly chaotic. But the course of true love between Britain and the EU has rarely moved smoothly. What plays out over the coming months will, after all, be the end of a lovehate relationship that has lasted 60 times.

When the six founding members of the European economic community( France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) signed the treaty of Rome in 1957 and first asked for Britains hand, it said thanks, but no thanks.

Mayor of Rome Umberto Tupini, addresses delegates of the six commonwealths( France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) signing the treaty establishing Rome in 1957. Picture: AP

Buoyed by a confidence in its own exceptionalism, by remembers of a great territory and a glorious battle, the UK was, after all, a major power: it had a seat on the UN security council, a special rapport with the US, a Commonwealth.

Detached from the continent both physically and culturally, it did not necessity Europe and demonstrated it, by sending a mid-ranking trade official, one Russell Bretherton, to the treaty sign as a mere observer.

But by the early 1960 s, prime minister Harold Macmillan had realised the mistake( it came down to trade, of course) and inaugurated seeing overtures towards Brussels. This time, the brush-off received from Europe, or more specifically France.

In 1963, Charles de Gaulle said non. Britain had very special, very original habits and habits, the French chairwoman said, and differ from continentals it would only be an Anglo-Saxon Trojan horse in a European stable.

The observation was certainly prescient, but for Britain still disturbing. Macmillan, literally, mourned. It was not until 1973 that Britain by now foreman by a convinced European, Ted Heath ultimately tied the bow with Europe.

Sadly, the honeymoon was barely over before the bickering began. Within a year, the UK was calling for wholesale reconstruct to the common agricultural programme( CAP) and in 1975 Harold Wilsons Labour government called an in/ out referendum.

British prime minister Margaret Thatcher chairs the 1986 EEC financial elevation in London. Photograph: Steve Wilkinson/ AFP/ Getty Images

Seven Labour cabinet ministers campaigned for Brexit, but Maggie Thatcher shone for remain and two-thirds of the country voted to stay. The Labour partys 1983 election campaign was opposed on broken off up with Europe but it lost.

The following year, though, Britain won its first serious spat with Europe: Thatcher was contended that the iniquities of the CAP entailed the UK was lending method more than its fair share of the statute, and she craved her fund back.

Britain got its rebate although it was not as big as it wanted and Thatcher payed an early European honour as Britains Iron Lady. Gradually, the dynamics on Britains side of such relationships were shifting.

Realising that European committee chairperson Jacques Delorss idea of a social Europe might protect employees from the worst effects of Thatchers free-market capitalism, Labour started to quite like the idea.

But the notion was born in the Conservative party that far away from being a cooperative multinational crusade in which Britain had its fair say, Europe was, in fact, a ghoulish continental plot bent on robbing it of its sovereignty.

In 1988, barely two years after she signed the 1986 Single European Act that swept away many of the national vetoes forbidding the way to the single marketplace, Thatcher stood up in Bruges and lashed out at Brussels.

She had been deluded, she said: Europe was not just a common market, but a federalist superstate in the making. Gradually but surely, the UK specially the Conservative party, and the anti-European press began hardening its heart.

This was, they quarrelled, at root an abusive tie-in: France saw the relevant institutions; Germany dominated the economy; continental idealism loped counter, everywhere, to sensible Anglo-Saxon pragmatism.

In 1992, the UK disintegrated calamitously out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism( ERM ). And although John Major prevailed opt-outs on the single currency and the social chapter on works rights at Maastricht, the Eurosceptic genie was out of the bottle.

Sterling sellers at NatWests foreign exchange department, as the pound still remained in the danger zone on Europes ERM in 1992. Photo: James Jim James/ PA

There were harsh texts, relentless rebellions, and incendiary headlines( few according the Sunshine iconic Up Yours Delors from 1990 ). In the end , not even the early charm of a properly pro-European Tony Blair, elected in 1997, could mash it back in.

He did his best. The row over beef exportations during the BSE crisis aside, these were happy days in the Anglo-EU marriage: Blair opted back in to the social assembly and was acclaimed from Brussels to Berlin. He even got on with Jacques Chirac.

But in all areas of the Blair times, most of the press and a hard core of Conservative, stimulus on by a new-ish anti-EU defendant called Ukip, continued to demand a divorce. Brussels was administrative, arrogant, wasteful, undemocratic, unreformable.

It also wanted to control our reviewers, our soldiers, our farmers. We were was governed by unelected Eurocrats, barmy Brussels officials and po-faced EU pen-pushers who wanted to ban pounds and ounces, bendy bananas and doubledecker buses.

Nigel Farage speaks to Ukip advocates outside the House of Commons. Picture: Sean Smith for the Guardian

In a clearly defined sign of acrimony ahead, a key factor in David Camerons victorious 2005 offer to passed the Conservatives proved to be his isolationist pledge to pull the party out of the main centre-right radical in the European assembly.

And with the Anglo-EU relationship rapidly deteriorating once more, it took Cameron barely a year after becoming “ministers ” in 2010 before he deployed the ultimate artillery the veto at a high-stakes 2011 conference.

Two years later, Cameron increasingly feared at future prospects of misplacing Eurosceptic Conservative voters( and MPs) to Ukip predicted an in/ out vote on Britains EU membership if he won the 2015 general election.

As if to confirm his fears, Ukip, building forage on EU immigration, finished top in the 2014 European elections , triumphing 28% of the vote. There was a final, bruising spat as Cameron tried urgently to negotiate a new EU slew and that was it.

We know the rest, of course. Cameron out, Theresa May in, the Department for Departing the European Union developed. Heated debates over the single sell, customs union, European court of justice, great abolition bill.

We know all about hard Brexit, soft Brexit, and Brexit necessitates Brexit, and had now become leavers or remoaners( plus some foes of the peoples of the territories ). And after 44 years of a tumultuous union, Britain and the EU are very nearly over.


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