HC Deb 05 February 1959 vol 599 cc559-60
23. Mr. Grimond

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the present position regarding the Free Trade Area, the Common Market, and Great Britain's position in regard to them.

66. Mr. Cronin

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the present policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to future trade relations with the European Economic Community.

The Paymaster-General (Mr. Reginald Maudling)

Our object is first to find a settlement, acceptable to the 0.E.E.C., of the immediate problems caused by the entry into operation of the Treaty of Rome. But Her Majesty's Government continue to attach great importance to settlement of the long-term problem and will remain in close touch with other European Governments to this end.

Mr. Grimond

Can the right hon. Gentleman say if the present position is that negotiations are at the moment broken off altogether, or whether Her Majesty's Government are actually formulating proposals, or whether they are awaiting proposals to be formulated by the Common Market countries for the association of this country with the Common Market later in the year?

Mr. Maudling

Negotiations were certainly not broken off; they were suspended. It is difficult to deal with this generally in question and answer. I understand that the House may have an opportunity in the near future of discussing these matters more fully.

Mr. Cronin

While appreciating the difficulties of the Government in answering this, has the right hon. Gentleman taken note of reports of the more favourable attitude on the part of the Common Market countries for closer association with Great Britain, and does not he think it now time for more intensive negotiations rather than this posture of calm irresolution which the Government have adopted?

Mr. Maudling

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman means by "calm irresolution". The Government attach the greatest importance to a solution of this problem. Everyone has always been in favour of closer association, but the difficulty has been to find the terms to achieve it.

Mr. Woodburn

Would the right hon. Gentleman try to keep the situation fluid so far as the amalgamation of civil lines is concerned, because if the civil air lines of the Common Market countries are amalgamated to form one unit it will be rather difficult to break into it later on?

Mr. Maudling

That is not really a question for me.