Brexit Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Großbritannien auf hoher See

ROM – Anfang der 1960er machte der damalige US-Verteidigungsminister Dean Acheson den berühmten Witz, Großbritannien habe ein Imperium verloren, aber noch keine Rolle gefunden. Danach gab es immer wieder britische Politiker, die dies ändern und Großbritannien eine neue Rolle in Europa geben wollten. Das gerade beendete „Brexit“-Referendum, bei sich die Mehrheit der Wähler für den Austritt aus der Europäische Union entschieden, spiegelt das spektakuläre Scheitern dieser Versuche wider – und das Ende einer Epoche.

Die britische Reise nach Europa begann in den frühen 1970ern, als der stramm europafreundliche Premierminister Edward Heath das Land an die Europäische Wirtschaftsgemeinschaft anschloss, den Vorgänger der EU. Sein Nachfolger Harold Wilson besiegelte 1975 die Mitgliedschaft mit einer Volksabstimmung.

Margaret Thatcher unterzeichnete die Einheitliche Europäische Akte, die Grundlage des gemeinsamen Marktes – einen der wichtigsten Schritte der europäischen Integration, der der britischen Inspiration viel zu verdanken hatte. Ihr Nachfolger, John Major, der sich vor der jüngsten Volksabstimmung aktiv für einen Verbleib in der EU einsetzte, war entscheidend am Entwurf des Vertrags von Maastricht beteiligt. Als dann Tony Blair an der Macht war, sprach er eloquent über die europäische Mission Großbritanniens.

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