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A missed opportunity? New Labour's European policy 1997–2005

Authors

  • JULIE SMITH

    1. Deputy Director of the Centre of International Studies, Uni-versity of Cambridge, a Fellow of Robinson College, Cambridge and a Senior Research Fellow with the Federal Trust. She was Head of the European Programme at Chatham House from 1999 to 2003 and remains an Associate Fellow. She is the editor (with Charles Jenkins) of Through the paper curtain: insiders and outsiders in the new Europe (2003) and (with Christina Boswell and Meng-Hsuan Chou) Reconciling demand for labour migration with public concerns about immigration: Germany and the United Kingdom (forthcoming).
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      The author would like to thank Christopher Hill and Richard Whitman, as well as participants at a study group held to discuss this special issue, for their detailed and insightful comments on earlier drafts of this article.


Abstract

When Tony Blair took office in 1997, he was seen as the most pro-European prime minister since Edward Heath and New Labour was seen as committed to the EU. Yet the record on Europe remains mixed. In its first term the government began to play a more constructive role in European integration than its Conservative predecessors had done. Blair agreed to the Treaty of Amsterdam, made the Franco-British St Malo Declaration with President Chirac of France and launched a ‘step change’ initiative on the UK's relations within the EU, notably predicated on enhanced bilateral relations with other member states. Blair was also deeply committed to the Atlantic alliance, arguing that the UK could be a bridge between the US and Europe. This suggestion was tested to the utmost during the Iraq war, when Atlanticism seemed to prevail. By 2005, Blair was working with a range of colleagues from across the EU, demonstrating his continued commitment. However, New Labour, fearful of the Eurosceptic press and public in the UK, failed to win the voters over to the European cause: after eight years in office, the government has still not held the long-promised referendum on entry into the Euro.

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