Europe: Them Or Us: An Island Apart

Confirmed for BBC Two on 12 April at 9pm and 10pm

Ep 1/2

Tuesday 12 April



Radio 4 Today Presenter and the BBC’s former political editor Nick Robinson presents an authoritative and impartial two-part series exploring the turbulent history of the UK’s relationship with 'Europe' - the Common Market, the EEC and now the EU.

For decades it has divided the public, torn political parties apart, felled prime ministers and baffled, bemused and angered our neighbours in Europe. The question the country has faced again and again is whether we should be partners or spectators, take part in or stand aside from the post-war project of a union of European nations. We have - in other words - struggled with a simple question: does Europe mean ‘them’ or ‘us’?

The first programme, An Island Apart, takes us into the corridors of power, to hear from the men and women who took the decisions which led to us being where we are today. The film examines why British governments first shunned the new Common Market, then begged to join it, and it explores the decisive part played by three British prime ministers: Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan and Edward Heath.

After being humiliated by the French president Charles de Gaulle when Britain first applied to join, Heath triumphantly took the UK into the Common Market 10 years later, with the wholehearted support of some of today’s Eurosceptics, such as Norman Tebbit. But the seeds of today’s debate were already being sown.

The unfamiliar story in this first episode – sometimes witty, sometimes poignant – emerges from a series of special interviews with Heath and two of his successors, Tony Blair and David Cameron, as well as other key British players – Roy Jenkins, Enoch Powell, Shirley Williams, Barbara Castle, Norman Tebbit, Nigel Farage and William Hague – plus the main civil servants and diplomats involved on both sides of the English Channel. Some of the interviews come from the 1996 BBC Two series The Poisoned Chalice, also produced by John Bridcut.

Europe: Them Or Us is a Crux production for BBC Two