“Ironically, there was a time when the U.K. wanted to be part of a grand alliance of European powers but had its request for membership rejected. During the 1960s, the U.K. twice attempted to get membership with the European Economic Community, an earlier incarnation of the EU.”
The world awoke Friday morning to the shocking news that a majority of U.K. citizens had voted to leave the European Union and Prime Minister David Cameron would be leaving office in three months, making way for a new leader who supported the Leave campaign.
In the EU referendum known as “Brexit,” a majority of U.K. citizens, 52 to 48 percent, voted to sever ties with the EU by 2019.
So what makes this referendum so significant? Below are five things about the U.K.’s long relationship with the EU
1. Britain’s EU Founding Father
Winston Churchill, the famed British prime minister, is considered one of the “Founding Fathers” of the EU.
Churchill was a supporter of creating a “United States of Europe” in which the various states of the continent would ally and never wage war on one another again.
“We must build a kind of United States of Europe. In this way only will hundreds of millions of toilers be able to regain the simple joys and hopes which make life worth living,” argued Churchill in 1946.
“There is no reason why a regional organization of Europe should in any way conflict with the world organization of the United Nations. On the contrary, I believe that the larger synthesis will only survive if it is founded upon coherent natural groupings.”
While what is now called the EU was not created until 1993, the international organization traces their lineage to the efforts of Churchill and many of his peers to create a so-called United Europe.
2. Initial Distance
Despite the support from Churchill, the U.K. hesitated to take an active role in the earlier incarnations of the EU.
“But as the European Coal and Steel Community was forged in 1951, Britain stood on the sidelines; and it declined an invitation to join the six founding nations of the European Economic Community in signing the Treaty of Rome in 1957,” noted the BBC.
“One of the architects of the ECSC, Frenchman Jean Monnet, said: ‘I never understood why the British did not join. I came to the conclusion that it must have been because it was the price of victory — the illusion that you could maintain what you had, without change.'”
3. Initial Rejection
Ironically, there was a time when the U.K. wanted to be part of a grand alliance of European powers but had its request for membership rejected.
During the 1960s, the U.K. twice attempted to get membership with the European Economic Community, an earlier incarnation of the EU.
French President and World War II hero Charles de Gaulle was responsible for both vetoes, arguing in 1967 after again rejecting the U.K.’s request that the British Isles held “hostility” for the mainland.
“[De Gaulle] said London showed a ‘lack of interest’ in the Common Market and would require a ‘radical transformation’ before joining the EEC,” recounted the BBC.
“He went on to list a number of aspects of Britain’s economy, from working practices to agriculture, which he said made Britain incompatible with Europe.”