Gordon Weil: Britain joins the ‘Anglo-Saxons’ – what this means for the United States

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It was around midnight when the lights went out in Brussels. This happened at a meeting in 1965 of the foreign ministers of the six member countries of the European Community, the ancestor of the EU.

I was the only American present, serving as the “official spokesperson” for the international staff. That night, I couldn’t realize that I was witnessing a piece of history that would be played out in 2021.

Shortly after the lights went out, so did the French foreign minister. Refusing to be outvoted on a policy that France opposed, he resigned. He was out for six months until the others gave in.

After World War II, France, Germany, Britain and the United States promoted the idea that by integrating the economies of Western Europe, a Third World conflict could be avoided. This would eliminate a major threat to Britain and provide the United States with a powerful ally rather than a new world war.

General Charles De Gaulle, the leader of France’s comeback against Nazi Germany, was the French president. While he favored ties with Germany, he disliked the British and worried about American influence on Europe through his English-speaking ally. He believed that France could rule Europe.

De Gaulle openly mocked the “Anglo-Saxons” – Britain and America. He wanted a European defense force independent of the United States and would forgo NATO military cooperation. In 1963, France vetoed Britain’s request for membership of the European Community. I joined the international staff that year, and the French were not happy.

In 1967 Britain tried again. This time it was headed by British Prime Minister Harold Wilson and seemed keen to engage in Europe. I was then a journalist and one evening I joined three British colleagues in Brussels for a beer with Wilson, who presented his membership file.

By his walkout, France had made sure to dominate European affairs, so it was not a problem for De Gaulle to dash Wilson’s hopes.

After the French grew tired of De Gaulle and he stepped down from the presidency, Britain was finally able to join the European Union in 1973. In the following years, the British proved that some of De’s statements Gaulle were correct. The UK has demanded special treatment to protect its own historic modes of government.

As Europe continued its economic integration, Britain found itself increasingly forced to follow the rules set by the EU, including the admission of workers from Eastern Europe. Putting their seal on De Gaulle’s objections, the British people voted in 2016 to leave the EU. Painfully, in 2020, Brexit had taken place.

De Gaulle’s prediction continues. It just reappeared last month, and this time the United States has played the central role.

The United States, United Kingdom and Australia have just accepted the AUKUS pact, giving Land Down Under its own nuclear submarines. The Australians and the British could help the United States dissuade China from deploying its growing fleet to support its bogus maritime claims in Asian waters. The UK already has its warships there.

But Australia had previously agreed to buy diesel-powered submarines from France, ships not really up to the task. He suddenly returned, although no AKUS participant warned the French well in advance. Not only has France seen Britain leave Europe, but it has also seen the United Kingdom throw itself into an “Anglo-Saxon” alliance. Echoes of De Gaulle.

The split could encourage French President Emanuel Macron in his efforts to promote a European politico-military operation independent of the Americans and the British. Since Donald Trump, who favored Brexit and shunned NATO, European confidence in the United States has plummeted.

The result could be an independent Europe rather than a dependent American ally. This could force the United States to consider different and sometimes opposing European strategies, even though they are developed by countries sharing many American worldviews.

But there is also a larger lesson in this story.

Every day, reports arrive with instant analyzes of the significance of the events. A passionate and hasty opinion drowns the news.

When Trump or Biden took controversial steps, experts wasted little time drawing conclusions and pontificating about the disastrous long-term effects. What appears to be a major mistake often loses its significance, barely derailing the Presidency. Analysts’ opinions mainly reflect their prejudices, which they want us to swallow.

When De Gaulle vetoed the British, my instant analysis, based on my prejudices and wishful thinking, was that he would be wrong. It looked like this for a while. Now Brexit and AUKUS show that “the general” has nailed the British. It only took 58 years. What circulates, returns, sometimes terribly slowly.

Lesson? We should pay more attention to knowing and understanding what is going on, not let our prejudices overwhelm our thinking, and avoid instant judgments about current events.

Gordon L. Weil previously wrote for the Washington Post and other newspapers, was on staff in the US Senate and the EU, headed state agencies in Maine, and was a Harpswell coach.

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