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Uploading the New European Union: Denmark, Ireland & the UK as Constitutional Entrepreneurs

Simon Usherwood

The three states that acceded in 1973 are often framed as problematic partners in contemporary debate in the European Union (EU), given the numerous times their national debates have clashed with other discourses. By way of contrast, this paper argues that Denmark, Ireland and the UK have all - in different ways - helped to make the Union fit for purpose in a globalising, post Cold-War world. The original post-1945 compact between France and Germany was appropriate for its time and its objectives, but was ill-suited to the economic and political needs of the various economic and political agendas set in place from the 1970s onwards. This is examined through three moments, each of which demonstrates how these states have made lasting - and ultimately positive - contributions to the integration process. The 1988 Bruges speech by Margaret Thatcher set out an agenda for liberalisation and for the management of security that has proved surprisingly resilient. The Danish 'no' vote to the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 properly opened up the question of popular legitimacy and consent, which has shaped the constitutional debate ever since. Finally, the Irish securing of at least one Commissioner per member state in 2007 was an important step in maintaining small states' rights. Taken together, we argue that the 1973 enlargement has been one of the most consequential for the EU's development, given the relevant states' pragmatic and adaptive approach to integration.

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