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How did Thatcherism affect Britain’s role in Europe?

Thatcherism significantly reshaped Britain's role in Europe, promoting a more sceptical and independent stance towards European integration.

Margaret Thatcher, the UK's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, was a strong advocate of free markets and limited government intervention, a philosophy that came to be known as Thatcherism. This ideology had a profound impact on Britain's relationship with Europe, particularly in relation to the European Economic Community (EEC), the precursor to the European Union (EU).

Thatcher initially supported Britain's membership in the EEC, seeing it as a free trade area that could benefit the UK economy. However, she became increasingly critical of the EEC's move towards political and economic integration, fearing it would undermine national sovereignty and impose burdensome regulations on British businesses. This scepticism was encapsulated in her famous Bruges speech in 1988, where she declared that "we have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level".

Thatcher's stance led to a more confrontational relationship with Europe. She fought hard to reduce Britain's financial contributions to the EEC, resulting in the UK rebate in 1984. She also opposed the creation of the euro and the Maastricht Treaty, which laid the groundwork for the EU. These actions contributed to a perception of Britain as a reluctant and sometimes obstructive member of the European community.

Thatcherism also influenced the domestic political debate about Europe. Thatcher's Euroscepticism resonated with a significant portion of the British public and the Conservative Party, leading to a growing divide within the party over Europe. This division persisted long after Thatcher's premiership, culminating in the Brexit referendum in 2016.

In conclusion, Thatcherism had a profound impact on Britain's role in Europe. It promoted a more sceptical and independent stance towards European integration, reshaped Britain's relationship with the EEC/EU, and influenced the domestic political debate about Europe.

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