Churchill on Europe
“It is only when plans for uniting Europe take a federal form that we ourselves cannot take part, because we cannot subordinate ourselves or the control of British policy to federal authorities.” This quote is a red herring —not Churchill.
Hoist on my own petard! Alan Ingram, a kind reader, has helped me correct several attributions (four of them mine) of this quote to Churchill. The remark, excluding Britain from a federal Europe, belongs to his then-foreign secretary, Anthony Eden. I plead…
Guilty with an explanation:
My error and others’ occurred by misreading successive quotes in John Charmley’s Churchill’s Grand Alliance (1995). This is a critique of the one-sided postwar “special relationship.” On page 250, Charmley quotes Churchill’s telling cabinet note of 29 November 1951:
Our attitude towards further economic developments on the Schuman lines resembles that which we adopt about the European Army. We help, we dedicate, we play a part, but we are not merged with and do not forfeit our insular or commonwealth character. Our first object is the unity and consolidation of the British Commonwealth….Our second, “the fraternal association” of the English-speaking world; and third, United Europe, to which we are a separate closely- and specially-related ally and friend. (National Archives, CAB129/48C  32)
Charmley follows this with ellipses and Eden’s words about Britain not taking part in a federal Europe. He correctly provides a separate footnote, citing Eden’s memorandum to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, 6 December 1951.
Of course, Eden was reflecting Churchill’s own opinion on the Europe Unite movement. A week later Churchill himself wrote: “the Americans would like us to fall into the general line of European pensioners which we have no intention of doing.”
On 11 May 1953, Churchill spoke in the House of Commons: “We are not members of the European Defence Community, nor do we intend to be merged in a federal European system. We feel we have a special relationship to both.” Clearly, at that time, Churchill and Eden were as one on the issue.
For a fuller account of Churchill’s statements on united Europe, please see “EU and Churchill’s Views.” (That post is revised with the correct attribution, and other quotations.)
“Keep England White”
Here is another supposed quote with current connotations. The Hillsdale College Churchill Project was asked to confirm Churchill’s alleged proposal of “Keep England White” as a Conservative slogan in the 1955 election. Is this misunderstood or misattributed? Yes.
This was neither a public nor a confirmed private statement. It is not in official minutes, or The Churchill Documents, Volume 23 (2019). Its origin is a diary entry by Harold Macmillan. After a 20 January 1955 Cabinet meeting, Macmillan wrote: “The P.M. thinks ‘Keep England White’ a good campaign slogan!”
I first found the Macmillan reference on a website called Traditional Britain. You will quickly grasp their political stance, but in fairness, they do link two negative references to the remark. The first is from The Guardian, to cite Churchill’s “true views” on immigration. The second is a 1993 uproar involving Sir Winston’s grandson, Winston Churchill (1940-2010). He called immigration “the no-go area of British politics.” He stated: “If we are to curb the scourge of racism we must first and foremost stop adding to the problem.”
Macmillan was a reliable diarist, not given to exaggeration, but the context matters. He wrote in his diary, “The P.M. thinks…” That is not a direct quote, nor did the words ever appear in public. Also, Macmillan followed it with an exclamation mark, which could mean that Churchill said it in jest. Ask yourself: Would any astute politician, even then, seriously propose “Keep England White” as a campaign slogan?
Out of context, the three words seem pretty stark. In context, Churchill was favoring limits on Caribbean immigration. He did not discuss other black or brown people. Of course, it is well established that Churchill in the 1950s resisted unlimited immigration. Is this racist? We report, you decide.