HC Deb 03 February 1964 vol 688 cc798-800
11. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has received an invitation from the European Economic Community to take part in discussions concerning the formation of a European Political Community.

33. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what discussions he is now proposing to have with the European Economic Community on the future political association in Europe.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. R. A. Butler)

As far as I am aware, no specific proposals have been made for fresh talks on European political union. The question of an invitation to Her Majesty's Government to join in such talks has not therefore arisen. The Governments of the Six are well aware of our desire to play a full part in any talks on this subject which may be arranged.

Mr. Ridley

Without at all wishing to prevent the Six from preparing their own position, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he would not agree that it would be a disaster if firm negotiations went forward without our at least being present? Will my right hon. Friend make this abundantly clear in the event of the talks being started?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. We are well aware of the difficulty that if the Six decided to talk on the subject it might prejudice the future political shape of Europe, and we made it clear both to Professor Erhard and to Signor Saragat when they visited London that we would wish to be in on the initial talks.

Mr. Stonehouse

Would the Foreign Secretary bear in mind that the majority of the people in this country are opposed to Britain entering Europe on the terms of the Treaty of Rome; and if he is proposing to have these detailed talks on Britain's membership of the political union, will he and his colleagues be honest with the electors at the next election and tell them what they intend to do?

Mr. Butler

There is a certain amount of ambiguity on the subject, but I can make the position perfectly clear. Let me first state quite clearly that no question has arisen of our joining the Six in the economic sphere at all. Let me secondly state quite clearly that all we have said is that if there are talks about the future political union of Europe it is common sense that Britain should be brought into those talks, but that is without prejudice to any result coming out of those talks.

Mr. Grimond

The Foreign Secretary has just given a curiously unambiguous reply—does he really mean it? On second thoughts, does he not wish to qualify his phrase of there being no question of our going into Europe in the economic sphere? Secondly when he says that no talks are proceeding among the Six, does it mean that the Cattani Committee is in suspension, with no date for its meeting again, or that it has actually been dissolved?

Mr. Butler

I have said that there is no need to be ambiguous on the matter. No question has arisen about our rejoining the Six in economic terms—or of us joining the Six, if that is clearer than to say "rejoining". As to the Cattani Committee, there is no question at the moment of talks on European political union having started, and we have simply asked that when they are envisaged we should be informed.

Mr. Fell

Would it not be true to say that the reason why so many of our people were doubtful about our entering the Common Market was precisely their fear of the political union into which we might be drawn?

Mr. Butler

I can go further and say that we have always said that we do not believe in any federal form of political European union, or the cession of national sovereignty. We have said that, in entering discussions on political union, we would bear it in mind.

Forward to