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United Kingdom — Moving into Europe?

The United Kingdom is testing Europe’s patience. But how much is too much?

June 5, 2001

The United Kingdom is testing Europe's patience. But how much is too much?

Following Great Britain’s election and Tony Blair’s very likely second term as prime minister, the key question is what comes next. The days of the once “splendid isolation” are definitely gone. So are the days of Margaret Thatcher’s vehement opposition to more European integration. Our Read My Lips feature is a guide to the future landscape for the United Kingdom and the EU.

Could Europe make it without Great Britain?

“If there is to be a new heart of Europe, Britain must be in it. Otherwise, it will be a weak heart.”

(Giuiliano Amato, Italy’s former Prime Minister, July 2000)

What does Britain’s leadership think of Europe?

“If there is one thing Britain should learn from the last 50 years, it is this: Europe can only get more important for us.”

(U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, April 1999)

How quickly could Britain join EMU, if it wanted to?

The United Kingdom could join the euro in as little as eight months — with a public referendum following three months after a cabinet decision to proceed, and a five-month formal accession period following approval of the referendum. Conversion from the pound sterling to the euro would require another 25-month accession period.

(Financial Times)

What is one reason Brits might see the Pound as so special?

The pound sterling was once upon a time a pound of sterling silver.

(The Sovereign International)

Why should the United Kingdom accept the euro anyway?

“No one ever explains that if you are out of the euro, you are out of the whole show.”

(Sir Edward Heath, former British Prime Minister, May 2001)

In what way did the United Kingdom join the European Monetary Union?

As of 2000, even though the United Kingdom is not a member of EMU, about 12% of the European Central Bank’s staff of about 830 are British.

(European Central Bank)

Seriously, to what degree is Britain already economically integrated with the EU?

As of 2000, 54% of UK goods and services go to the EU, while 52% of UK imports come from the EU. The respective U.K.-U.S. trade figures are 16% and 17%.

(UK Department of Trade and Industry)

How attractive is the United Kingdom to non European companies?

Of all non-EU companies with European operations, nearly 40% of them have opted to set up their primary operating base in the United Kingdom.

(Financial Times)

How would Great Britain stand on its own?

As of mid-1999, the United Kingdom had 108 in the world’s 1,000 largest companies in terms of market capitalization. While lagging the United States with 494 and Japan with 135, this number compares to 45 for France, 36 for Germany, 23 for Italy, 22 for the Netherlands — and 20 for Switzerland.

(Morgan Stanley Capital International)

Any last regrets from the Iron Lady regarding the conduct of British diplomacy?

“I never tried to get to consensus. I tried to get agreement with what I wanted to do.”

(Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, on her leadership, 1995)