Brexit Scott Barbour/Getty Images

La Grande-Bretagne prend la mer

ROME – Au début des années 1960, Dean Acheson, ancien secrétaire d’État américain, eut cette formule : le Royaume-Uni avait perdu son empire, mais n’avait pas encore trouvé son rôle. Par la suite, les dirigeants britanniques qui se succédèrent au pouvoir tentèrent de renverser la situation en ménageant à la Grande-Bretagne un nouveau rôle au sein de l’Europe. Le pays, consulté par référendum, vient de choisir le « Brexit » : une majorité d’électeurs se sont prononcés en faveur d’une sortie de l’Union européenne, et leur vote marque l’échec spectaculaire des efforts d’intégration. Une époque s’achève.

C’est au début des années 1970 que la Grande-Bretagne se mit en chemin vers l’Europe, lorsque le Premier ministre d’alors, Edward Heath, européen convaincu, fit entrer son pays dans la Communauté économique européenne (CEE), la mère de l’UE. Son successeur Harold Wilson scelle, par le référendum de 1975, l’adhésion britannique.

Puis Margaret Thatcher signe l’Acte unique européen, qui crée le marché unique – l’une des étapes les plus importantes de l’intégration européenne, grandement redevable aux idées britanniques. Après elle, John Major, partisan actif du maintien (remain) lors de la récente campagne référendaire, contribue grandement à la conclusion du traité de Maastricht. Tony Blair, lorsqu’il exerce à son tour le pouvoir, plaide éloquemment en faveur de la mission européenne de la Grande-Bretagne.

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