Margaret Thatcher’s Character and Legacy (Robin Harris, November 27, 2023, European Conservative)

Mrs. Thatcher was sincere in wanting Europe to be a success. But what she wanted the European Common Market to be was not what most of the other states eventually wanted. Her British successors then gave up on the battle to steer Europe away from centralism. If she had remained a few more months in office, she would have vetoed the Maastricht Treaty. That would have allowed Britain to remain within the existing framework, while others integrated further under new treaties. Brexit would, therefore, have been unnecessary. In this sense, she would have kept Britain in Europe.

The important text for all this, if now only as an inspiration, is her Bruges Speech to the College of Europe in 1988. I had a hand in it. Read it, and you will see that it is not anti-European. In fact, in the speech she extolls Europe’s legacy and values, especially those of Christendom. She adds that “Europe is not the creation of the Treaty of Rome.” She calls for cooperation between independent sovereign states and makes clear that nationhood must not be devalued. She says it is “folly” to attempt creating what she called an “identikit European personality.” That is what virtually all right-of-centre Europeans believe today.

The Bruges speech was also ahead of its time in reaching out explicitly to Europeans living in the thrall of Communism. “East of the Iron Curtain,” she said, “people who once enjoyed a full share of European culture, freedom, and identity have been cut off from their roots,” She added that “we shall always look on Warsaw, Prague and Budapest as great European cities.”

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