The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Derick Heathcoat Amory)
I have been asked to reply.
It was agreed at a series of meetings in Paris on 12th to 15th January that the twenty Governments who are members of, or associated with, the O.E.E.C., together with the Commission of the European Economic Community, should arrange for the consideration of certain problems of commercial policy of particular concern to these Governments. This would include the examination, as a matter of priority, of the relationship between the European Economic Community and the European Free Trade Association, with due regard to the commercial interests of third countries and the principles and obligations of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
§ Mr. Holt
Is the Chancellor aware of the growing concern due to the failure of the Government to avoid the split which has taken place in Europe particularly on behalf of industry and, as we learned the other night, on behalf of people in agriculture? Is it not time for a complete reappraisal of Government policy, to recognise the realities in Europe and to seek now entry into the European Economic Community?
I certainly could not accept the hon. Gentleman's allegation that the fact that the Six and the Seven have not yet reached any form of association is due to negligence on the part of Her Majesty's Government. I do not think that any Government could have shown themselves keener or could have bean more energetic in the steps they have taken to try to bring about such an association.
§ Mr. Wade
Is it correct, as stated in the Press, that after the talks in Paris the British Government finally abandoned the attempt to obtain a Free Trade Area in Western Europe? If that is so, is there not an increasing danger that the division between the Six and the Seven will harden? Does the Chancellor agree that time is not on our side?
It is certainly not the case that the United Kingdom Government have abandoned the hope or intention of doing everything they possibly can to bring about a wider multilateral association, including all members of Western Europe.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
Is it not quite clear that both the Six and the United States are firmly opposed to any special arrangements between the Six and the Seven involving discrimination? Would it not be as well if the Government now recognised this and also that, whether we like it or not, if there is to be an arrangement it has to be very near to a Customs union?
All these points will be raised in discussion, and we must see what the results of the meetings of the twenty Governments are. The terms of reference for their discussions are very wide and will include all these difficult points.