The British Way of Life-And the Common Market
GREAT EVENTS DO NOT invariably occur to the accompaniment of thunderous displays of passion; not at any rate in Britain. The declaration of war on Germany in 1939 was reported by the London Times under the normal double-column headline reserved for all major transactions. The British government’s more recent decision to enter Western Europe, even if it means relinquishing a sizable part of Britain’s economic and political sovereignty, was announced in the same matter-of-fact spirit, and the country so far has responded by keeping a tight rein on its emotions. Some tears are being shed, but mostly off-stage. Enthusiasm, too, is at a discount, possibly because the pro-Europeans fear to upset their countrymen by too loud a demonstration of triumph. The fact remains that the government and Parliament are now morally committed to an enterprise comparable to the introduction of Free Trade in 1846: a historic operation which then achieved the two-fold result of securing Britain’s industrial predominance, and ruining the Conservative party for a generation. Memories are long among the Tories, and pessimists are not lacking who believe that Macmillan will be remembered with that reluctant convert to Free Trade, Robert Peel, as a Tory leader who sacrificed his party to what he conceived to be the common good. The Opposition prefers to regard him as another Ramsay Macdonald.
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