The Blair Government 1997-2007. An overall failure or success with respect to European integration?

Term Paper, 2009

13 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents

1. Introductionp

2. Portrait of Tony Blair

3. Aims of the Blair government

4. Work and Achievements of the Blair Government
4.1. Labour’s First Term 1997 to 2001
4.2. Labour’s Second Term 2001 to 2005
4.3. Labour’s Third Term 2005 to 2007

5. Blair’s European policy - Successes and Failures

6. Conclusion


1. Introduction

“Fog in the Channel, Continent Cut off”, goes the famous headline that appeared in The Times around 1900. It perfectly captures the image of Great Britain being an island nation separate from Europe whose foreign policy is characterised by the feeling of holding a special position and distance to Europe. European integration is a very emotive issue in modern British politics concerning Britain’s reluctance to be involved and to forgo its parliamentary sovereignty. This ‘traditional’ Euroscepticism led to Britain’s reputation as ‘awkward partner’ which is said to be due to its long-standing empire tradition, its special relationship with the USA and its inbred island mentality.[1]

When in 1997, after 18 years of Conservative government, the ‘New Labour’ party won the majority of votes with a new party concept, a young pro-European leader and an overall more positive attitude towards Europe, this governmental change promised a turning point in British European policy.

In the following term paper I am going to analyse in how far the then Prime Minister Tony Blair did succeed or fail in his mission to take Britain closer to the heart of Europe. My paper is going to start with a short portrait of the person Blair and continues to introduce his aims. An analysis of his policies follows. Finally I am going to point out his achievements and his fail or respectively success and the reasons therefore.

In terms of my sources I am basically relying on articles in anthologies such as The Europeanization of British Politics edited by Ian Bache and Andrew Jordan, Länderbericht Großbritannien of Hans Kastendiek and Roland Sturm and Blair’s Britain 1997-200 7 of Anthony Seldon. But there were also monographs, an online source and an article of the scientific journal International Affairs used.

2. Portrait of Tony Blair

„I am a passionate pro-European“, Premier Minister Tony Blair stated on June 23rd of 2005 in a Speech to the EU parliament. “My first vote was in 1975 in the British referendum on membership and I voted yes. In 1983, when I was the last candidate in the UK to be selected shortly before that election and when my party had a policy of withdrawing from Europe, I told the selection conference that I disagreed with the policy.”[2] According to this quotation Blair has been in favour of European integration ever since he has been in politics.

Blair was born in May 6th 1953 in Edinburgh, Scotland. At the Age of 40 he became the youngest leader of the Labour Party and three years later the youngest Prime Minister since Lord Liverpool in 1812. He was Prime Minister for 10 years.[3] What characterises him is the ability to create an immediate contact to the people surrounding him. He wants to be liked by the British and is able to evaluate the nations’ mood at any time and harness it. Very typical of the Blair government was the contact to the people. There were handshakes, participations in talk shows and visitors allowed in Downing Street. Blair obviously enjoyed mingling with the crowd.[4]

During his first term, his reputation in Europe and outside of Europe increased and he was known as a competent and professional politician.[5]

“Other EU leaders and practitioners felt encouragingly sympathetic to the Blair government and especially to Blair himself. Blair and his advisers were keenly aware that there were prizes to be won.”[6]

He admired the US president Clinton’s ideas to modernise the economy and adopted many of them which will be looked at at a later point in my paper. His relationship to George Bush has not been of this kind. They have been a rather odd couple until the attacks on New York in September 2001 when Blair immediately secured his help to the USA. He supported the war in Iraq and hence received much negative criticism from his European partners.[7]

3. Aims of the Blair government

The desire “to be moving towards the heart of Europe”[8] can be considered as an overall description of Blair’s politics or at least as he would certainly have wished his politics to appear. The image of Britain as the ‘awkward partner’ was to be erased and substituted by a more positive term.

In respect to the EU, Blair especially aimed at the completion of the single market, reformation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), signing the Social Chapter of the EU, a more active and creative role of Great Britain in the EU and an enlargement of the Community to the East for more stability and prosperity. Furthermore, it was vital for him to improve the very negative public opinion about Europe in his own country, the transparency of EU institutions and contacts to other EU member states that had suffered from the former Conservative government. The most difficult issues were joining the single currency and to sign to a European constitution. In this respect, it was highly important to him to keep the Veto right of member states in questions of national interest.[9] This huge agenda appeared to be very impressive and promised to incorporate Great Britain into the EU to an extend that would transcend all former government’s participation in continental business.


[1] Lenz, Bernd, ed. New Britain. Politics and Culture. Passau: Karl Stutz, 2006. p.107

[2] Blair, Tony. “Speech to the EU Parliament 23 June 2005.” 23 June 2005. Number10 – The official

site of the Prime Minister’s Office. 22 February 2009.


[3] Number 10. 22 February 2009. <


[4] Casale, Roger. “Tony Blair – ein Portrait.” In: Großbritannien in Europa: Karlspreis 1999

an Tony Blair. Eds. Armin Laschet/ Friedbert Pflüger. Aachen: Einhard-Verlag,

1999. p. 15

[5] Casale, Roger. 1999 . p.21f.

[6] Wallace, Helen. „New Europe, New Labour: British European Policy Reconsidered.” In: Britain in

Europe: prospects for change. Ed. John Milfull. Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999. p.105

[7] Fröhlich, Stefan. „Special Relationship: Großbritannien und die USA.“ In: Länderbericht

Großbritannien. Eds. Hans Kastendiek/ Roland Sturm. Bonn: Bundeszentrale für politische

Bildung, 2006 . p.543f.

[8] Smith, Julie. “A missed opportunity? New Labour’s European policy 1997-2005.” In: International

Affairs 81/4 (2005). p.721

[9] Bulmer, Simon. “Großbritannien und/in Europa.” In: Länderbericht Großbritannien. Eds. Hans

Kastendiek/ Roland Sturm. Bonn: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, 2006. p.563

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The Blair Government 1997-2007. An overall failure or success with respect to European integration?
Dresden Technical University  (Anglistik)
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Annemarie Kunz (Author), 2009, The Blair Government 1997-2007. An overall failure or success with respect to European integration?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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