(One of a series of weekday posts about the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
In 1975 a fierce debate raged in Britain over whether it should join the European Common Market.
Opponents of membership supported their arguments with this Churchill quote: "Each time we must choose between Europe and the open sea, we shall always choose the open sea."
Churchill's grandson and namesake, then a Member of Parliament, wrote to The Times of London providing context for his grandfather's words. it tells us about the Churchill-de Gaulle relationship as D-Day approached. The quote, Churchill's grandson wrote:
"is drawn from de Gaulle's version of a wartime row he had with Churchill, as is made clear by the very next sentence: 'And if I have to choose between you [de Gaulle] and Roosevelt, I shall always choose Roosevelt.'It should be remembered that when Churchill spoke in 1947 of British membership in the "European family," he had in mind a militarily powerful Europe which could protect itself and, when necessary, project force to other parts of the world.
The date was 1944 and the Europe referred to was dominated and occupied by Nazi Germany. It is not surprising that Churchill, on the eve of the Allied invasion, should make clear to de Gaulle that the U. S. alliance was more important to Britain than de Gaulle's forces.
Churchill was not referring to the European Economic Community, as it had not even been thought of at the time.
A more representative idea of his thoughts can be gained from his many speeches in the cause of European unity especially those at Zurich, The Hague, and in the Albert Hall in 1947, when he declared, 'If Europe united is to be a living force, Britain will have to play her full part as a member of the European family.'"
Today's Europe, excepting perhaps Britain, is militarily weak and not the Europe Churchill envisioned in 1947.
Now on a personnal note: The weekend is underway and I hope your's is a very good one.
Letter to The Times, Winston S. Churchill, MP, (Here at Churchill Centre. Scroll to Winter, 1975)