The BBC treated this amazing historical coup of theirs with a jokey piece about baguettes and frogs legs and whether Thierry Henri could have captained England. Frankly I'm disappointed in them. The final realisation of the dream of our medieval kings- and it was the French themselves who proposed it- quel' extraordinaire! The English prime minister, Anthony Eden- who was famously a dick- turned it down without exploring it further- and offered the French membership of the Commonwealth as a sop. The moment passed and France turned elsewhere and shortly afterwards helped create the Common Market- from which we Brits were notably excluded.
A union of Britain and France: I can hardly begin to imagine what that would have meant. And that's presumably why Eden turned it down- because he was a man of limited imagination and the idea was just too big for him to handle. But of course it wouldn't have meant frogs legs appearing on British menus- at least, no more than they already do. The cultures of the two countries are too distinct for them to just flow together and become one. We wouldn't have absorbed France and they wouldn't have absorbed us. Look at England and Scotland- they've been joined in Union for 300 years and are as stroppily different now as they ever were. No, what it would have meant was the creation of a new Western European power, sufficiently stong- perhaps- to have significantly altered the balance of the Cold War and the course of history in our lifetimes.
And while the cultures wouldn't have merged they would have rubbed along in a more intimate way. There would have been more interchange, more friction. Piaf and the Beatles would have been fellow citizens, Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair would have contested the same elections, the Channel would now be nothing more than a very wide river....
What a missed opportunity.