Britain witnesses today a great confusion and discrepancy regarding the issue of Europe's integration. Since the mid-1980s, the transfer of state powers to an EU level but also the reforms affecting the distribution of power in EU policy have both challenged the sovereignty of European member states. Indeed, the UK/EU relationship from 1945 until the present day is characterized by two divergent terms: uncooperativeness, then accommodation. One current issue that aligns itself with the idea that Britain is the EU's "awkward partner", is that the British government seems to hold "a wait and see" policy on the majority of issues raised within the European Parliament, while the citizens themselves remain uncertain of the consequences and gains they could get of a deeper European integration.

This non-committal British policy creates many dilemmas. Hence, when assessing Britain's past involvement with Europe, it is still continuing to show reluctance in accepting all European policies and ideologies, this is why it is often dubbed the "difficult" or "awkward" partner.

To what extent is Europe still an identity issue in Britain today?

In the context of the necessity to better answer our problematic, one should throw a glimpse on the different attitudes of recent British governments regarding their European policies and the persisting problems they encounter with the European Union. This work will deal first with the general British issues concerning Britain's membership to the EU stressing particularly the problem of joining the Eurozone.

This will lead us in a second part to discuss Blair's premiership and his European policy shedding light on the thorny problems that persisted between the EU and Britain, but especially the issue of the single currency. The third and last part will give a short view on Brown's European policy during his short premiership, this will be followed by David Cameron's policy regarding Europe and the coalition government he formed with the Liberal Democrats focusing in particular on the persisting issues with the EU but also the main reasons that contributed to the attribution of the "awkward" or "reluctant" characteristic to Britain.

This will be an attempt to answer the problematic stated above.

First and foremost, the UK membership to the EU was seen as essential in order to repeal the British economic crisis. Therefore, the UK governments that came into power have encouraged the EU to develop a large free trade area, especially that Britain supported fervently the principle of globalization.

Nonetheless, they have continuously sought to limit EU powers and revenues so that to ensure that British sovereignty is not diminished and that the whole UK governmental system is not as much affected. Added to this, from an economic point of view, it is vital to mention that the UK was not really in harmony with the European economy, under the pretext that it has closer tights with the United States and the Commonwealth, who were more in favour of a globalized economic policy, unlike the EU which supported a regulated economy centred mainly and particularly on the European interests. This argument was also cemented by the fact that European countries realized lots of their commercial exchanges between themselves, versus the UK which have the majority of its commerce and investments outside the Eurozone.

Indeed, the changeover to Euro is until the present day a persistent and thorny problem between Britain and Europe. The debate over the UK's involvement in the Eurozone has been prominent ever since the British government decided to withhold the UK entry until a later unspecific date. In fact, the government's debate seems to be whether Britain entry will be a political decision or an economic one. Added to this, the main worry for Britons regarding the adoption of the single currency is the fear of losing their national identity since the pound represents the longest serving currency in the world. As a matter of fact, the relationship between British people and Europeans has always been somewhat frosty in the past, and a number of Britons feel that the introduction of the Euro could lead to an increased integration in Europe and eventually to a kind of Euro "super-state".

If Britons admit the idea of ceding their currency, they would have to face even a loss of control over a large number of Britain's economic affairs, since the power would be shifted to the European Central Bank (ECB). Hence, the entry would mean a permanent transfer of domestic monetary autonomy to the ECB which would contribute to the loss of flexibility on exchange rates. Therefore, domestic monetary policy would no longer be able to respond and to be flexible to external economic shocks such as the rise in commodity prices and inflation. It is vital to note that the UK is thought to be more sensitive to interest rate changes than other EU countries, due to the presence of high scale owner-occupation at variable rate mortgages in the UK housing market.

Broadly speaking, a deeper integration in Europe today but notably the entry in the Eurozone is a matter that worries Britons, because this will inevitably mean that Britain's voice in Europe in terms of shaping the Union's future monetary policy will significantly be diminished.