Andrew Gilligan: The EU ... So Where Did it All Go Wrong?





Andrew Gilligan is London editor for the Sunday Telegraph.

In the first week of 1973, the week Britain joined the Common Market, the Government put on a festival of European culture so that the British people could share what their Prime Minister, Edward Heath, called his "heart full of joy" at their country’s shiny new Euro-future. Alas, the "Fanfare for Europe", though now entirely forgotten, ended up symbolising the ambivalence of the 40-year relationship that has followed.

A plan to borrow the Bayeux Tapestry and show it in Westminster Hall was dropped after it was pointed out that the butchery of Saxons by Normans was hardly a suitable theme for the occasion. Instead, the centrepiece was a showcase of European treasures at the V&A – the French refused to lend the Mona Lisa, despite Heath’s personal plea, on the grounds that the British Museum had just refused them a loan of the Rosetta Stone. As an alternative, with a certain unintended symbolism, they offered Georges de la Tour’s Le Tricheur, a picture of someone cheating at cards.

There was also, among other things, an exhibition of European sweets at the Whitechapel Art Gallery; a "Dutch breakfast" and food festival at a London hotel; and co-ordinated demonstrations of "Continental cooking" at Scottish gas and electricity board showrooms. Three hundred anti-EEC demonstrators gathered outside the Royal Opera House, booing and chanting "Sieg Heil" as the Queen, Prince Philip and Heath arrived for a gala performance to celebrate the new dawn.

Yet despite all the opposition – and it was serious – what also strikes one now is the strength of support...



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