One day several years ago, when London's air was so laden that shipping dared not leave harbor, the Times ran the headline, "Continent Cut Off by Fog." But only the fog was unusual; Great Britain has traditionally been cut off from Europe. Since the days of henry VII and Cardinal Wolsey, England has tried to stand aloof from entangling alliances on the Continent and depend on sea power for strength. At the same time, Britain has feared the emergence of a great power in Europe. In line with these dual aims, the English have traditionally regarded themselves as the holders of the balance of power, rather than active participants in European politics.
But after the crippling blows of the war, Britain no longer had the strength to act as a balancer, and in the present state of world politics, with two super states facing each other across a shrinking globe, there is little hope for those who would restore the old system. Many in England have recognized this change, yet until now it has not been reflected in British foreign policy. For although the English have vocally backed recent moves towards a federal Europe, they have paradoxically refused to enter or even actively support such European efforts as the Schuman Plan or EDC. And the absence of full British participation has been a major factor in France's failure to ratify the treaty creating the defense community.
But the events of the last two days show that England has at last given up the policy of insular security. In a treaty with the defense community, the British government has pledged an armored division to serve in the proposed European army. Air force units will also be given. Although the treaty does not make the United Kingdom a member of EDC, it provides for co-operation that is so close and complete that there is little difference. Some French statesmen have indicated that they feel Britain has not promised enough. This view is hardly realistic, however. By making the present commitment, Britain has made a great concession of sovereignty. Certainly, in the event of war, more aid would immediately come. As opposed to France and other continental states, Britain is still a world power with world-wide obligations and responsibilities. The promise of an even closer and stronger union with EDC at this time would have left other area exposed.
Now that Britain has given such concrete evidence of support, the French National Assembly must ratify the EDC treaty. Not only did the idea of EDC spring up in France, but the French recently stated that they would permit Germany to rearm only if the German forces were part of a European, not a national army. Such a supra-national force will come into existence only if the French will it. Today, no single European state can act as a third force powerful enough to deter Soviet aggression. If a balance of power is possible in the hydrogen age, it can come only through a close union of the United States and a united Europe.
Great Britain has given official recognition to the fact that twenty miles of water are no more than a river. British sovereignty has been sacrificed to achieve a strengthened Europe. France must now acknowledge European responsibilities which are even greater than Britain's.