§ 11.7 a.m.
§ Sir John Vaughan-Morgan (Reigate)
It is some time since we have had a debate on foreign affairs and we have, therefore, had no opportunity to discuss what to many of us is the most burning and important problem in this sphere, that is Britain's relations with Europe. It will no doubt come as a relief to the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, to whom we are very grateful for his presence and attention, that he will not today have to spend his time addressing his Left Wing over his right shoulder on such difficult and tendentious subjects as Vietnam or the Dominican Republic. But I felt that it would give us an opportunity to discuss within this general topic both the recent Vienna Conference and the Prime Minister's journeyings.
In connection with the latter I should like to read one quotation to the House:One familiar domestic criticism of Mr. Wilson's political style was that he attempted to be all things to all men. Now that the Prime Minister has completed his visits to the major European capitals, the same criticism is being heard in foreign chancelleries. So rapidly has the Labour leader endeared himself to so many disparate groups, to so wide a range of politicians representing contradictory policies, that British motives are once again under suspicion.That, let the House believe it or not, was from last week's New Statesman and it seems to me to be typical of the doubts which have been engendered in many quarters as to where Britain stands.
The communiqué which came out after the conference was reasonably anodyne. One thing is now crystal clear. Every- 2128 one is well aware of the dangers and disadvantages of the division of Europe into two trading blocs. But it is fair to say—and it is sometimes forgotten here—that those dangers and disadvantages are more harmful to the E.F.T.A. countries, on balance, than to the countries of the E.E.C., and within E.F.T.A. they are more harmful to ourselves in the long run than to any other country.
The communiqué underlines the situation which has thus been created by the "paper curtain" that now divides Europe and divides E.F.T.A. from the E.E.C. The communiqué goes on to discuss certain concrete proposals to which I will return. It also stresses the importance of the Kennedy Round—and I think, so say all of us. A successful Kennedy Round would do a great deal to mitigate the dangers to which I have drawn attention and would eliminate some of the stresses which are beginning to show.
Various measures are to be proposed in October to strengthen E.F.T.A. It was agreed by all at the conference that the import surcharge was most damaging and that its removal was, to quote from the communiquéa vital step in the consolidation of E.F.T.A.Like others, I had hoped that the Prime Minister might be able to announce a further reduction in the import surcharge at that time. I had felt, perhaps optimisticallly, that he would find it difficult to face our colleagues in the other countries unless he did so, and my optimism and belief in his ability to do so, I am sorry to say, cost me 5s.
E.F.T.A. has been most useful, and it remains very useful. Without it, the growth and development of the E.E.C. would have impinged far more harshly on those nations in Europe which lie outside its boundaries. It has provided, and will, I hope, provide increasingly, the United Kingdom with a larger market base for our major industries. The concept of a free trade area, which was at one time thought to be unworkable, has proved to be very workable indeed. Therefore, all reasonable steps which can be taken to reinforce E.F.T.A. are good, but only if they are steps which will make the eventual and inevitable negotiations with Europe easier and painless.
2129 But there is a limit to the use of E.F.T.A. The fact is—and this is a disagreeable fact which we have to face—that E.F.T.A. is an association of those who are excluded from a club. Whatever its virtues—and they are many—E.F.T.A. is not, and cannot be, a bridgehead for us to enter Europe. To think that involves a complete misunderstanding of the nature of the E.E.C. and of E.F.T.A. They are two entirely different animals, and the divergence between the two species is growing greater and not less.
The Prime Minister, in Vienna, introduced the theme of bridge building. It is not a new theme, and it is not, frankly, one with a record of success so far. It may well be that the right hon. Gentleman saw himself going down in history as "Harold the Bridge Builder", "Harold Pontifex"—Pontifex Minimus. But I am afraid that his efforts are undoubtedly doomed to failure.
What are the bridge building proposals so far put forward? In the main, there are three. The first is a meeting of the Six and Seven before the end of the year, which would, of course, politically tide the Government over the now inevitable autumn election. Secondly, there is the bright idea that the E.E.C. should join E.F.T.A. Thirdly, there are proposals for a limited free trade area—that is to say, free trade between the two groups in special categories of goods. These are the three main proposals, and, frankly, they do not amount to a row of pins.
To deal with them in reverse order, may I take the limited free trade area. This is an admirable idea in theory, and I for one would welcome it warmly. Certain industries would lend themselves very well to such an idea—for example, the motor car industry and the machine tool industry which is, by its very nature, European. This is an idea which has been mooted by others—in particular, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling). It would be a great help to many of the industries concerned in both blocs. But even if we get the necessary G.A.T.T. waiver, such as Canada and America are now seeking for motor cars I very much doubt whether the E.E.C. would support such an idea, for reasons which I will give later.
2130 The second bright idea is that the E.E.C. should join E.F.T.A. This is an old chestnut. It is certainly as unacceptable to the Six now as it was when first mooted five years ago. The fact is that all free trade area proposals such as these carry the same stigma in the eyes of the E.E.C., which is that Britain or the E.F.T.A. countries, or both, are trying to get the best of both worlds. They are trying, as the Economist put it in a very telling phrase, to becomecountry members with access to the club's trade discount";and that is unacceptable.
I deal now with the proposed conference of the Six and Seven. Will it happen, or is it just a pre-election gimmick? If the invitations were accepted, could it achieve anything? The answer to that, in my view, is that it could achieve nothing. First of all, it would show up the differences of approach on the political issues within the E.F.T.A. nations themselves. But the real mistake lies in the arithmetic that thinks that Six plus Seven makes Thirteen and equals Europe. It does not any more.
Any such conference is doomed to failure since it fails to appreciate the growing unity and influence of the Community, and, incidentally, the growing authority of the Commission itself. However much sympathy towards us might be expressed by leaders at such a conference, few of them would want to do anything to mar or hinder the growing cohesion of the Community. We read so much about the difficulties and the disagreements within the Community that we tend to overlook the achievements and the successes; and the influence of the Commission itself is in no way negligible. The Commission will certainly be hostile to any idea of bridgebuilding and very unsympathetic to a conference from which it is excluded.
The Community has many preoccupations, and its first priorities are with its internal problems and not with the external problems, of which E.F.T.A. is merely one. This is not to argue that there is in any way any hostility towards us or towards E.F.T.A. inside the Commission. Far from it. There is a fund of good will towards us and a deep regret that we should not be there with them, but the uncomfortable and unpalatable 2131 truth is that for the present we are largely irrelevant to them. So bridge building is out. The door into Europe appears to be closed for the present.
Meanwhile, what can we do except bide our time? First, we have to face the fact that the United Kingdom can only come to terms with Europe as a full member. Therefore, what is needed here is the political resolve to sign the Treaty of Rome, and brave words about bridge building cut no ice here, there or anywhere. Their sole purpose, and that is slightly dubious, would be to prepare some sections of public opinion for the inevitable ultimate political decision. There is no point in the Prime Minister setting himself up as E.F.T.A.'s own de Gaulle.
The General himself seems sometimes equally out of touch with what is happening. His creed is, to quote his own words,Every nation must be responsible itself, freed of infringements.These are brave words, but they are meaningless, because under his nose and behind his back the Community is being steadily consolidated.
So is there a solution to this dilemma? Not yet. But what we do need now is an unequivocal statement—a commitment, if you wish—from the party opposite such as we have had recently from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. There must be no "ifs" and "ands" and no trailing of the final conditions before we have even been invited to enter negotiations. Till our full intentions are made clear we run a grave risk of being distrusted by our friends in E.F.T.A. and of disheartening our friends in the Community and of drifting purposelessly along alone.
§ 11.22 a.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
I greatly should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan) on choosing this subject for this Adjournment debate, but more especially than that I should like to congratulate him on the extremely clear and honest way in which he put this subject, which is so much in all of our minds, and, in my case certainly, carries so much pain and grief that we should have to hear 2132 from him a tale, although so accurate, also so very depressing. There is nothing that I will say that will contradict anything that he has just said, but, on the other hand, perhaps I can dot a few "i's" and cross a few "t's" in the extraordinarily accurate survey which my right hon. Friend has just given us of our position in relation to Europe.
I have just returned from a week at the Assembly of Western European Union, where the main political debate centred round this whole question of our relations with the Common Market. It was the most depressing debate I have attended at any of the European Assemblies during the four years for which I have been a member of them. In particular, I would say that the speech of Lord Walston, who spoke on behalf of the Government, was one which seemed to me completely to misunderstand the situation, which seemed to be devoid of reality and perhaps can do more harm than good to the Government's intentions. I hope that if Ministers from this country are to speak in these Assemblies they will do so with more real life and more real fire, and not read out Foreign Office briefs which appear not to have been changed for the last 20 years, which is the impression that that speech gave.
Therefore, as I say, there is a staleness and disenchantment about the whole situation. It is as though the log jam has got so stuck that nothing can move it. I know that we are all waiting. We are all waiting for opportunities to change the situation to appear, and there is perhaps, to those who are enthusiasts, no task more difficult than to have to wait. It is always a depressing experience to sit and wait, so to speak, for something to turn up. Really, we are waiting for French policy to change.
Of course, it is natural, while one is waiting, to look for alternatives, to look for diversions. If one has missed one's aeroplane and has to wait for hours for the next one, one tries all the other airlines to see if any of them has one going in one's direction, and one is quite right to see if there are other ways round the dilemma in which one is, but in fact there are no real alternatives.
My right hon. Friend talked of bridge building, the links and connections and all the many minor approaches which the Government are making, but I believe 2133 that these cannot work because, as he said, E.F.T.A. and E.E.C., both in their way admirable, are completely different animals.
The central theme of the whole of the thinking, the psychology, of the European Economic Community is that it involves integration, first the integration of businesses and industries and finance, and, secondly, political integration. There is an unalterable determination to make those six countries eventually into one, and, realising that, there is no chance of trying to join such an organisation to an organisation which is merely a free association of sovereign trading nations such as E.F.T.A.
We must not under-estimate the political commitment of the E.E.C. Whatever the arguments and discussions going on the Continent may be, there can be no doubt that in the end they will come near to being a United States of Europe, and the determination of all the leading statesmen there, both national and in the Commissions, to achieve this is so obvious and so patent that without our accepting this ourselves, and expressing a positive and enthusiastic view of the ideal, we shall not be taken seriously in our attempts to end the division of Europe.
Links and bridges may ease a few minor strains. Please do not let it be thought that I pour cold water on any attempt to widen the intergration of Europe in any way. Industrial links, perhaps free trade in motor cars, means of communications between the two bodies, all of them are helpful, and things which should be encouraged, but to think that this is a policy towards joining Europe is a futile and useless idea.
There is one danger in it, too, and that is, I think, that we must be careful not to give away too many of our bargaining counters. We have precious few. If negotiations should be resumed for us to join the Market we have really very little we can use as trump cards in the negotiations, and if our technical knowledge, or our nuclear knowledge, or our industrial "know-how," are frittered away in a series of bilateral agreements we shall be left with very little appeal to help us gain entry into the Community. Though I am in favour of doing all that we can 2134 in the way of bridge building, I believe that we should remember always that we have to keep as many of our cards in our hands as we can for the eventual fusion of the two, as there is no alternative to joining the Six outright.
In reality, we have to face the French political veto which kept us out three years ago, and which, I think, still applies; and while we are waiting for that to alter, I observe with some unhappiness the way in which the Community itself is hardening as a result of that veto, of that political objection. The members of the Commission are rather beyond political and democratic control. They have established a pattern in Brussels which suits them. They have settled down to easy and orderly progress. Each piece of their thinking fits in. Their whole attitude is one of settled calm which cannot be disturbed, and there is little in the whole political set-up of the Community which can disturb this organised and peaceful calm.
I think that it is clearly obvious how difficult it would be to integrate one new member into the Community, let alone seven, or 10, or however many more might eventually want to join. It is built up on a series of balanced bargains which the Six have made, and which would all have to be disturbed if a new member were to join the Community. If one were a Commissioner, one would view this not only as a lot of extra work, but as raising great difficulties indeed to maintain the balance of advantages which has been so carefully built up.
I think that each year that goes by with us excluded makes it harder to change this situation. Although we welcome the wheat agreement, the progress, such as it is, towards agreement for the Kennedy Round, the progress towards political union, and so on, within the Six, we have to recognise that each of these makes the bargain more firm, and, therefore, more difficult for us to accede to the Community in the future.
I think that political union, when it comes, will also make it harder for us, because they will have evolved their own arrangements for controlling the Commission, their own foreign policy, perhaps their own defence policy and we will be asked to accept this in its entirety. It is not as if we were in at the making of the original compromises. It will be 2135 as though the compromise between six members has to be altered again, to allow a further compromise to allow a seventh or other members to come in.
All these are massive difficulties which the House would be wrong to underestimate, and I think that it is only fair and frank to the country to make quite clear what a difficult task it is which faces us. To be optimistic and to try to see how this can be broken, I think that I must echo my right hon. Friend's statement that there is no alternative, there is no other approach that we can now make, but to be enthusiastic and to be outright in our declaration of our need to join the Community.
At the meeting of Western European Union the Dutch rapporteur said:First, it would be most helpful not only for public opinion in Great Britain but for our efforts in Europe if there were a declaration of intent for the Common Market, if possible a non-partisan declaration. If that could be said, the case for the Common Market would be much stronger than it is now.This is the kernel of the whole situation. We are not at the moment convincing Europe of the seriousness of our intent to join the Common Market, and until an outright enthusiastic declaration is made both from this Front Bench and from the Front Bench opposite, there will be no ready response to our overtures.
In our pamphlet "One Europe", which I hope many hon. Members have read, we as a group of individual backbench Members try to give this lead on behalf of our members, but I feel that this same enthusiasm, this same outright declaration, is necessary on behalf of the whole House if we are ever to achieve what is so essential.
I think that I should mention the two great impediments which have been built up into reasons why we cannot make this declaration. The first is E.F.T.A. I do not believe that there is any clash between our desire to join the Common Market and our present membership of E.F.T.A. It will, of course, require careful handling, but the idea that because we are a member of E.F.T.A. we cannot ever join the Common Market must, by definition, be wrong, because all the members of E.F.T.A. themselves would 2136 like to see the division ended and would like themselves to have either membership or association with the Common Market, so there must be a possible way of solving this problem.
The same Dutchman, Mr. Patijn, was asked:How can you expect us to do this, because that would be selling E.F.T.A.?His reply was:… you did it once before. Please do it again. You are serving the purpose of E.F.T.A. members by going in. Once you are in, Norway will be in and Denmark will soon follow. Once Britain is in we take that step and fight for the opening of the door.We have many means by which to realise the importance of our commitment to E.F.T.A. and the importance of the E.F.T.A. countries in Europe, and they will help us, as they will help E.F.T.A. if we give them the opportunity, but I believe that there is no chance of a formal joining of the two associations, and that Britain as before will have to lead the way to open the door for our partners in E.F.T.A. Nor do I believe that this will result in the hardships or the accusations of broken pledges which many fear.
Perhaps I might now say a word about the Commonwealth, because I believe that this is not an irreconcilable objection. This has been discussed so much that I shall say very little about it. During the debate on Tuesday my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said:I have no doubt whatever that we can combine membership of the European Community with a healthy influence in the Commonwealth partnership. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st June, 1965; Vol. 713, c. 1575.]That is a sentiment which is being accepted more and more widely in the Commonwealth itself, and it is one which I hope will commend itself to the whole House.
Of course, there are difficulties. All the Brussels negotiations centred round these difficulties, but the extent to which they were solved at Brussels, and the extent to which public opinion is now changing and modifying itself in favour of realising that these problems are soluble, is surely evidence that we can make the declaration for which I was calling earlier.
From all this, it must be clear that the five conditions laid down by the right 2137 hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister under which the Labour Party would join the Common Market can no longer hold. The conditions about E.F.T.A., about the Commonwealth, about planning our own economy, and so on, are no longer relevant in a situation which has changed dramatically, and I may say for the worse, since that time in 1962 when these negotiations took place and when these conditions were formulated.
I repeat that there is no alternative but for this country to make up its mind what it wants to do, and I for my part have no hesitation, no doubt whatever, in saying that our only course is to apply for membership and to accept all that that entails.
§ 11.40 a.m.
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams (Hitchin)
The right hon. Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan) presented a picture of the present state of relations between Britain and the Common Market which I found difficult to follow. As I listened to him develop his theme, one had the impression that it was due to the British Government that there was not at the moment an attempt to get Britain into the Community. It was as if the breakdown of negotiations in January, 1963, had never happened.
The right hon. Gentleman was followed by his hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), who was a little more frank. I refer to two phrases that he used—first, that we were waiting for French policy to change; and, later, that in reality we have to face up to the French political veto. The hon. Member is right.
Let us analyse the position in which we find ourselves and look at the limitations imposed upon the Government—limitations which would be imposed on the Conservative Party if it became the Government. Then let us look at the possibilities of easing a situation rightly described by the hon. Gentleman as one in which everything depends on time in that we have to wait for an opportunity which does not exist at the moment.
Until January, 1963, hon. Members opposite, who then formed the Government, engaged in very lengthy negotiations with Europe. When we look back we can see that there were two weak- 2138 nesses in the negotiations from the point of view of the then Government. First, they had to try to live down the 1958 proposal, usually called the Maudling Plan, and the suggestion that in a sense Britain was trying to be a Trojan horse in the Community, in attempting to open up the closed tariff barriers around the Community and turn the Community into one in which supranational development would not be feasible.
I see that the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne), for whose knowledge of these matters I have considerable respect, shakes his head in disagreement.
§ Mr. J. Bruce-Gardyne (South Angus)
I was shaking my head only because the hon. Lady said that one of our difficulties arose because of our earlier experience with the E.F.T.A. negotiations.
§ Mrs. Williams
No doubt the hon. Gentleman can deal with that point later.
No one who looked through the course of the negotiations could deny that the fact of the original Free Trade Area proposals very much coloured the attitude of some members of the Common Market, notably France, towards our attempts later to sign the Rome Treaty. There was always a slight suspicion that our approach to the Community was as much an approach to destroy it as to make it stronger. I am not saying that this was just, but it existed in the minds of many taking part in the negotiations.
We then saw the long and detailed economic negotiations conducted by the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath). Perhaps I can make one criticism of those negotiations, that they stressed time and time again such minute details as the precise relationship of Commonwealth tariffs to European tariffs and the details of certificates of origin which coincided with other attempts to describe the origin of goods; they went into immense detail over agricultural policy and tried to make special arrangements and in the course of that lost sight of the political objective of either the Community or the United Kingdom in relation to the Community.
As these negotiations wore on, conducted as cleverly as they were, they became more and more irrelevant to the basis of 2139 discussion upon which British membership of the Community was possible. When the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury says that a declaration of intent would help now, I am sure that he is fair-minded enough to grant that what was missing in our earlier negotiations was a declaration of political intent.
What happened after the breakdown in January, 1963? During the first three or four months there was an almost complete stop in co-operation between the Five and France. The Five went to what then was the limit. We must be clear about the limit. It is anything which will not destroy the existing Community. As the hon. Member said, Britain has many friends in the Community, notably the Dutch, and also Italy and Germany, but they have always one pre-condition, which is that they will not take their friendship with us to a point which might destroy the present Community. Therefore, the limitation on what we can expect from them must always be in our minds.
The first reaction to the breakdown in January, 1963, was a stalemate within the Community. Since then we have seen that the purposes of President de Gaulle went much further in terms of the way in which he saw the development of the Community than merely whether or not it could be wider than the Six. What I am now saying is that there was a development of a totally new concept of what the Community is meant to be, sometimes given in shorthand as "L'Europe des Patries", but certainly with much wider implications. If we refer back to the last few weeks and look at the joint declaration by Mr. Gromyko and President de Gaulle on certain European matters, a declaration many of the terms of which are subscribed to by my hon. Friends, we appreciate that it did a great deal to weaken the Community approach because it constituted a bilateral discussion between France and Russia about matters of the greatest possible interest to other members of the Community, above all Germany.
It is clear that at present President de Gaulle is acting to a very great extent to prevent any further political development of the Community. It is not only Britain which is caught in the difficulty, 2140 but the Five as well. Whether we look at the way in which the meeting on 10th May of the Foreign Ministers was cancelled, whether we look at the way in which the agricultural negotiations have been a pre-condition of any future development of the Community, whether we look at the way in which the discussions over the financing of the agricultural system have been developed, whether we look at the way in which the development of the European Parliament has been halted when, only two years ago, it looked so likely, what we are clearly seeing is the Community virtually stalemated at present. I speak as one who would very much like to see it develop.
It means that, just because the Community's own position is to some extent weakened by the divisions between them on where the future lies, above all this would not be from its point of view a time when it would be willing once again to reopen the whole discussion as to whether there should be a wider Europe. I speak as one who would like to see Britain fully in the Community. But every one of us here, if we put party points aside for a moment, recognises that there will not be any immediate development of British relations with the Community on the original basis of our signing the Rome Treaty.
Surely, in this position, any Government who want to keep the option open must look at the possibilities of closer relations of a type which will be acceptable to all six members of the Community. One of the strengths of the Government's point of view and the point of view of the Prime Minister has been willingness to treat the Community as one. The right hon. Member for Reigate referred to the relations between E.F.T.A. and the Community. But we must mark an advance, and that was when the Prime Minister referred to the Community in membership of E.F.T.A. and not to each one of the Six. This was recognised as a reality which is crucial to our approach, that the Community must be treated as one regardless of the stresses and strains.
We welcome the possibilities, as the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury said, of keeping the door open. One matter so far neglected by all Opposition speakers is functional arrangements. All of us on this side recognise 2141 that a functional arrangement is not the same thing as a political union. Of course we recognise it, but what one can say about a functional arrangement is that it makes possible a type of economic development which does not militate against later political development.
Let us be frank. If the interpretation of companies or arrangements for licensing agreements lie almost entirely between Britain and non-European countries, all the difficulties which the hon. Member pointed out in politics will be duplicated in economics. Surely my right hon. Friend is right to try to see what functional agreements can be made in aircraft and other types of weapon development in order to try to develop a relationship which is only maintainable on this basis.
Secondly, surely he is right to think of ways in which the tariff differentiation between two sides can be reduced, be it by the Kennedy Round, by special arrangements regarding particular industries or, as I think is a possibility which is opened up by the negotiations between Nigeria and Brussels, by an extension of existing preferential arrangements conceivably even between the Commonwealth African countries and the associated territories overseas. This has al ways seemed to me—
§ Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan
The hon. Lady is listing many things with which many of us would agree. This is not what I was suggesting. My feeling about the limited free trade area is that it is a mistake to repeat the very mistakes which she says were made in the Maudling negotiations—those which made it look as though Britain was trying to get the best advantage on the cheap.
§ Mrs. Williams
I do not want to bore the House by listing the possibilities. The possibilities which I am listing are the only possibilities which are at present open to us. I do not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite can ask for something which will simply lead to another breakdown in negotiations. I was recently in Brussels and also in one or two other European capitals. I saw very clearly that any attempt to reopen negotiations which would be unlikely to succeed would be more damaging to the long-term possibilities of our relationship with Brussels than anything else. I 2142 accept what the right hon. Member for Reigate said, that we must make it clear that we accept the integrity of the Community. We need to look at what we can now do.
There is, of course, one very large problem in the way, which speeches so far have skirted. This is what some hon. Gentlemen opposite regard as the one ticket into Europe even under present conditions, the issue of an independent European nuclear deterrent. Some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House believe that this price, high as it is, is worth paying to get negotiations started again. Certainly, President de Gaulle's reaction to Nassau suggests that there is something in this argument, simply from the point of view of getting negotiations started again.
There are two reasons that we on this side of the House find that approach totally unacceptable. One is that it is unacceptable to essential and important members of the Six themselves. It plays to a small minority of opinion in countries like Germany and Italy over against the vast majority of opinion which believes that a separate European deterrent, leading, as it ultimately would, to a growing breach in the Atlantic relationship, is unacceptably dangerous, even as a method of getting Britain in.
The second reason which is fundamental to us on this side is that an independent nuclear deterrent would be essentially a long step towards proliferation of a kind which we would find totally unacceptable, and of a kind which would render impossible what for us must be the ultimate object in Europe. That is of a community which is a whole, with a wider range of relationships, not limited to the community in Brussels but associated with the E.F.T.A. countries, including the neutrals, which are unlikely to enter into full relations—as we now know—not limited to Commonwealth countries, but ultimately embracing the growingly independent countries of the Warsaw bloc as well. It is not without significance that there is at present a very powerful delegation from Poland in Brussels discussing various possible economic links between that country and the Community.
I accept what hon. Gentlemen opposite say about the crucial importance and the 2143 ultimate inevitability of a close relationship, involving entry into the Community, between Britain and the Six. This is under very great difficulties at present, and hon. Members must accept this. I would ask them what they seriously believe can be done over and above what the Government are doing to try to leave open the door for satisfactory negotiations to take place at a later stage. The Prime Minister has made it clear that he would discuss political union, that he wishes to be involved in disiussions about Ministerial meetings, foreign policy and other types of political evolution in the Community. He has made it clear that he is open to discussions about tariffs and about relationships with the outside world.
A declaration of intent might help in addition, but its timing is absolutely crucial. A declaration of intent will operate only if it is clearly seen to carry with it not just the support of this House but the support of those whom Britain is, to some extent, pledged to taking in with her. Anyone who looks at the present situation in the Community will recognise that there are grave difficulties presented by Sweden and Switzerland. Therefore, it is only by a change within E.F.T.A. itself as well as within Britain—I accept both these things—that a future negotiation is likely to succeed. To my mind, it is crucial, if we embark on another negotiation, that success is almost certain from the very beginning.
§ 11.56 a.m.
§ Mr. J. Bruce-Gardyne (South Angus)
I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) in his thanks to my right hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan) for initiating the debate. I think that it has already shown its worth in the different contributions which we have had. I listened with particular interest to the remarks of the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams), because I know that she has studied these matters with considerable care. I agree with a good deal of what she said.
I should like to stress that, having spent three years in Paris as a journalist at the time of the original free trade area negotiations, and also during the formative period of the Common Market, and 2144 then having watched fairly closely the course of the negotiations in Brussels, I have always believed that the solution to the problem of our relations with our Continental neighbours is a prerequisite for a solution to all our problems and, therefore, I believe that it is most advantageous that we should be having this debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury referred to the report which was submitted to the Western European Union Assembly in Paris this week by one of the Dutch members, Mr. Patijn. He asked the United Kingdom two questions which The Times described as "pertinent". They certainly seemed very pertinent to me. The questions were:(a) Can Great Britain restore her balance of payments, modernise her economy and maintain sterling as a world reserve currency on a national basis?and:(b) Would a British decision to renounce nuclear national autonomy strengthen Atlantic cohesion and the unity of Europe, or would it divide Europe? Under what conditions will it serve both Atlantic and European relations?My right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) was reported in The Times as having answered the first question in the affirmative, that Britain could restore her balance of payments, and her economy and maintain sterling on her own. I hope that he is right, but I cannot entirely share his conviction of this point. We stand a very much better chance of doing these things on a European basis; I am not sure that we can do them at all on any other basis.
But I believe that the kernel of the problem which we are discussing lies in the answer we give to the second question, concerning the future arrangements which we make in Europe for nuclear weapons and the form of the relationship between Western Europe and the United States. All attempts so far to put this country's European relationship on a satisfactory basis have failed because of the failure to understand what I believe to be two extremely important realities. I frequently criticised my right hon. Friends when they were in power and I still feel that they were sometimes as much at fault in this matter as I believe right hon. Gentlemen opposite are today.
The first of these two realities is that we have failed to understand that the new 2145 Europe is essentially a political entity—what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has called a "constellation of power". Trading arrangements in Europe matter, of course, but I agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin that we spent far too long in Brussels arguing about the channels of trade in kangaroo meat or cricket bats and did not at any time face the political realities involved in commitment to Europe.
If we are to play our part, as we should, in a new and united Europe, we must recognise that this involves, first and foremost, searching for a common foreign policy and a common defence policy for the whole of Western Europe. I do not pretend that either will be easy to find, but if we want to resolve the problem of our relations with Europe we must keep these political issues foremost in our mind.
I am not so pessimistic as my hon. Friends about the possibility of some positive outcome to the proposals which the Prime Minister has put forward and which my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet orginally suggested; for tariff cuts on individual products. This may have appeal to the members of the European Community. The French have not yet spoken on this point and until they hare we cannot be sure of the reaction the suggestion will get. However, I agree that this is not the real solution and no more than a palliative.
The second reality which we have failed to recognise throughout is that the key to this new Europe for those of us who are not yet members is, and will be, held as far as we can see into the future by the French. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Hitchin that, broadly speaking, the other members of the Community want us in. I also agree with her that they are not going to go to the limit of risking the break up of the Community to have us in. And that essentially means that if we can arrive at conditions to resolve this problem of our relations with Europe which are acceptable to France, they will be acceptable to all. But if we try to arrive at conditions which are acceptable to the others but not to France, that will serve us no useful purpose at all. Our failure to recognise these realities has been demonstrated in a variety of ways, such 2146 as the determination as far as possible to exclude defence from the context of European integration. It is here that I part company from the hon. Member for Hitchin.
When one talks about defence in this context the crucial issue is undoubtedly nuclear defence and the arrangements we make for the nuclear defence of Western Europe. Of the various schemes which have been propounded by the United States, by the British Prime Minister in his so-called A.N.F. and the rest—and the latest one put forward by Mr. McNamara, in Paris the other day—all suffer from a fundamental defect. It is that they assume that the United States must always retain ultimate control over the deterrent on the Continent of Europe, but that Europe cannot and will not maintain any effective, real, control over the United States deterrent.
I do not agree with the hon. Member for Hitchin that objections to these rather unbalanced propositions are confined to minority circles in Italy and Germany, if I understood her correctly. I think that the hon. Lady would not dispute that those views are strongly held in France, and not only by members of the present French Government.
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams
I was endeavouring to point out that there is more than one way of trying to overcome this admitted feeling of being disregarded and unconsulted on defence matters. I accept the hon. Gentleman's analysis, but I do not accept the conclusion that he draws from it.
§ Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
I was about to come to the question of alternatives. I was pointing out the dissatisfaction that is felt because of this imbalance and that the latest proposals, including those made by Mr. McNamara, suffer from the same defect. I believe that none of these suggestions really satisfies any of the Common Market countries, with the possible exception of the Dutch who, I agree, take a different attitude on this issue.
The other objection to the various plans which have been put forward is that they tend inevitably to give the Federal Republic of Germany a foot in the nuclear door without satisfying the nuclear ambitions that such a move might well encourage in Western Germany. I do 2147 not share the view of many hon. Members opposite that West Germany is not to be trusted with nuclear weapons. But I do believe that there is a widespread view in Eastern Europe that this is so, and that granting control of nuclear weapons to Western Germany would have serious effects on the thaw which has been going on on the other side of the Iron Curtain, if one can call it that any longer.
I believe that we can overcome these difficulties if we move gradually towards the idea of an independent European nuclear deterrent which would, at least in the early stages, have to be based on the co-ordination of the British and French deterrent.
I draw the attention of the House to a passage in an article by the former French Chief of Air Staff, General Paul Stehlin, in the October, 1963, issue of Foreign Afiairs, in which he stated:To begin with, the British and French nuclear forces might constitute the nucleus of a European multi-national force based on the equality of the participants; and later, when Europe's state of unification permits, they could become part of a homogeneous force.I believe that that is the line along which we should be moving. We should demonstrate that we recognise that the Europe of the future has common interests in defence and foreign policies far overriding the narrow limits of an economic relationship. We have also demonstrated our failure to recognise the meaning of the new Europe which is evolving by giving the impression, whether rightly or wrongly, that we regard our relationship with this Europe as a sort of convenience for securing our relationship with the United States. This new Europe will not be treated as a convenience by anyone.
I believe that my right hon. Friends in the previous Government were frequently guilty of this fault and that the present Government were guilty of it in a particularly glaring instance when they chose to inform the United States, and the United States Government alone, in advance of their decision to impose a 15 per cent. surcharge, in breach of their international obligations. This is just the latest example of a trend that has gone on for a long time.
One of the big problems is that the French Government adopt an attitude 2148 which suggests that Europe can only develop by demonstrating its hostility to the United States. But I believe that the feeling that we go rather too far in the other direction is not confined to the French. We have to realise, in short, that if we are to take our place in this new Europe we must recognise that our relations with our Continental neighbours must be the first priority in defence and in international affairs as well as in economic matters.
I believe that the partnership of equals across the Atlantic, which President Kennedy held out as a great vision before us for the future, will only be established when we have first built the European side of the arch. We can only build that when this country is involved, formally and effectively, on the European side.
§ 12.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Longbottom (York)
I should like to reply to what has been said by the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams). Everyone agrees that this is not the time to reopen negotiations. The opportunity is not there. But there are two questions which she raised which I think everyone needs to look at in the meantime. The first is the question of functional arrangements. I agree that if one could make some functional arrangements to help bridge a gap before the time when we may have the opportunity of joining the Common Market, then they should he made, with one proviso with which I think the hon. Lady would agree. The proviso is that these functional arrangements should not in themselves be so entangling that they will become a hindrance to our eventual joining of the Common Market.
The hon. Lady asked what we would do that the Government were not doing in the meantime before conditions were such that we could enter into negotiations. Frankly, I think she answered the question herself when she said that perhaps the thing that was needed was to make the nations of Western Europe recognise the fact that Britain was determined to enter into Europe eventually.
Whether one calls it a declaration of intent—although that particular word has other connotations and those may not make it so recognisably good—or a statement of faith, Britain now wants everyone 2149 to realise that she is serious about becoming politically and economically joined with the Continent. That is why I am sorry that as recently as 28th February the Prime Minister saw fit to reiterate the five conditions of Britain's entry. At lease one of them was out of date. This is concerned with the problems of Britain's relationship with the Commonwealth. This would make it impossible for us to join in with Europe. I agree with what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said about this in the Commonwealth debate which we had a few days ago.
What does the Commonwealth want from Britain? I think events have shown that it is complementary for Britain to have an important and vital part in Europe if it is going to be able to fulfil its Commonwealth commitments. The Commonwealth does not want Britain just as a place where it can come and meet in London and have old boys' tie, regular meetings, with a few dinners and a chat around the problem. What the Commonwealth wants in Britain is something very much more positive. It wants a strong country, a sound currency from which it can do most of its trading in the world. The majority of members of the Commonwealth want economic aid from Great Britain for the development of their countries and technical assistance to enable them to fulfil their aspirations of nation-building and so on. This is what the Commonwealth is looking to Britain to provide.
More important, I am sure that members of the Commonwealth are becoming increasingly aware that Britain cannot provide this unless it is within the context of a wider trading area, a wider economic unit which the Common Market and the Continent of Europe provides. It is no use giving aid and development assistance to those countries unless one is going to give them the opportunity of trading. By opening up to the Commonwealth countries the European trading area we should be giving those countries a greater area of trading than they have at present in this country. Many of those countries in the Commonwealth earn four or five times as much foreign exchange as they do by any aid which they receive from us. This is another reason why these conditions today are, I believe, impossible. 2150 I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) and the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin, who alluded to this as a possibility, that what is needed from Parliament and the country today is for us to make this declaration of intent, that it is our wish to join in with the Treaty of Rome, accepting the full economic and political possibilities and potentials that this involves. This is a step we can make in the meantime. I hope that at the Commonwealth Prime Minister's Conference the Prime Minister will go through this question with the Commonwealth Ministers, because they realise that if Britain is going to be able to do something dynamic for the Commonwealth in terms of aid and development it can do it only from inside Europe.
§ 12.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway)
I am deeply aware that by standing up now I am preventing several of my hon. Friends from speaking and I apologise to them because I know that many of them would make extremely important contributions. But we are limited in this debate and I know that all Members of the House would like to hear the reply we are going to have from the Minister.
I would like to congratulate, as everyone has, my right hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan) on introducing this subject. It is a pity that we are so limited because it is clear that there are many people who have contributions to make. I listened with great interest to the speech by the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) and I agree with a great deal of it. I think, however, that she rather missed the point. What my hon. and right hon. Friends have said is not that we should immediately join the Common Market. We all know the difficulties. What they have said is that if it is our policy in the future to join the Common Market, if we think it is to the advantage of Britain, Europe and the Commonwealth, then we should make it clear that that is our policy and we should not equivocate.
I did not agree with the hon. Lady when she said that the Common Market is virtually stalemated. I could not 2151 accept that. I think there is a great deal of misunderstanding at the moment about what is happening in Europe. There is a great deal of misunderstanding about the great ideals and materialist forces at work in Europe. It is undoubted that the European Economic Community is firmly established and here to stay. It has its ups and downs and its differences—indeed, there have been shocks—but those who think that it is an unstable organisation delude themselves. The Common Market has managed to survive shocks, and will continue to develop. In what way it will develop is anyone's guess, but that it will develop, and that there will be continuing integration within the Community, is certain.
We know that the transitional period will be completed at the latest by the beginning of 1968, and we know what that means. Shortly before that, possibly by the end of 1967, the E.F.T.A. will have completed its transitional stage. We shall then have two economic groupings in Europe, each of which will have moved into its permanent condition. It is therefore quite obvious that we have to think about the importance of bringing these groups together.
I agree with much that the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin said, but references to making better use of the Kennedy Round, of consultations between the two groupings, of taking steps to bring the two economic systems into closer harmony, are all right as proposals but are no substitute for a European policy. It is important that we should realise this, because all these are purely defensive and interim proposals.
We all look forward to hearing the Minister of State. I was present when he spoke at Bonn not long ago, and last month, speaking at Strasbourg, he said:We believe that the creation of a united and democratic Europe in which Britain can play her full part must be a primary objective of its policy.Those are fine words—but what do they mean?
Is it the policy of Her Majesty's Government that Britain should in due course join the Common Market and accept the principles of the Treaty of Rome? The hon. Lady has given us her view, but she 2152 does not represent Her Majesty's Government. We know that she is a good European, but it is Her Majesty's Government which will have to answer the question. Unless that is the policy of the Government, there is little hope of a united and democratic Europe in which Britain can play its full part, because the Community believes, with justification, that its success is firmly based on—is, indeed, a consequence of—the Treaty of Rome, and those who wish to join the Community cannot expect the Treaty to be renegotiated for their benefit, or to be excused from the obligations that the members have placed on themselves.
At the E.F.T.A. meeting in Vienna, the Prime Minister is reported in The Times as having proposed that the six European Economic Community countries should be asked to join the E.F.T.A. If he did say that, and if it was a serious suggestion, it shows an astonishing ignorance of what is really happening in Europe. Those six countries have already refused to do this, and to think that they would even look at the suggestion again now that they have progressed so far is ludicrous. I have sufficient respect for the Prime Minister's intelligence to assume that he cannot have been serious, and that if he made it he must have done so knowing that he would receive a rebuff from the European Economic Community—that the suggestion would not be considered, or would be immediately rejected. If so, it is no wonder that there is this suspicion in Europe of Her Majesty's Government's intentions and motives.
Then we heard of the five conditions laid down by the 1962 Labour Party Conference, two of which refer to freedom to pursue our own foreign policy and the right to plan our economy. Nothing in the Treaty of Rome requires us to accept European dictation of our foreign policy or complete European control of our economy as a condition of entry, but everyone must recognise that the maintenance of completely independent foreign policies and purely national economic systems cannot possibly be reconciled with the ultimate purpose of building a united Europe. The Prime Minister has made it clear that Her Majesty's Government are still bound by these conditions, and as long as that state of things continues Her Majesty's Government must expect opinion in Europe to assume that the 2153 Labour Party totally misunderstands or rejects the real aims of European unity.
The time has come when the Government should make their position much plainer, and I hope that today the Minister of State will do so. The Prime Minister should stop tinkering about with bridges and tunnels and state quite plainly whether or not he wants to see Britain join the Common Market. We on this side stated our position long ago, and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made it clear again on Tuesday.
The decision taken by the previous Government in 1961 to apply for membership of the European Economic Community was one of historic importance. It was not only an act of faith in Europe but an act of faith in Britain, and in Britain's capacity to rise to the European challenge. I am convinced that the reasons for our application in 1961 to join the Common Market are even more valid and compelling today and are in the highest interests of Britain, the Commonwealth and Europe alike. I hope that the Minister of State will be able to say the same.
I believe that Britain's destiny lies in helping to shape the new Europe, and that we can only fulfil this from within the Community, and not from without. I am sure that that view is shared by a large and constantly increasing majority of the people in the country, and perhaps most important of all, by the young and rising generation. And if what has been said today is any indication, it is certainly the view of the overwhelming majority of those in this House.
§ 12.28 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Walter Padley)
I congratulate the right hon. Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan) on initiating this debate, which has been marked by two outstanding speeches. We had one from my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams), who gave a most realistic appraisal of the facts of the present situation, and the likely developments. The other outstanding speech, but one that I regarded as dangerous, came from the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne), but in as far as there are dangerous as well as constructive ideas on the question of European unity it is as well that they should be ventilated.
2154 I congratulate the right hon. Member for Reigate on his lack of party spirit. I was a little peeved that the right hon. and learned Member for Conway (Mr. Peter Thomas) should have devoted so much of his speech to party points—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] After all, we all know that the issue of Europe has zigzagged within and between the parties, and during the last 13 years—the decisive period of Britain's relationship with the Community—the Conservative Party held power here. I myself have been preaching a united Europe for 30 years. I wrote four books about it in the middle 'forties. I was one of a minority in the House and in the Trades Union Congress in favour of Britain going into the Coal and Steel Community from the start. That was a minority view in both parties.
What we have to discuss now is not whether it would have been better for Britain to have been a leading, or the leading, foundation member in the years after the war; the problem now concerns the realities of the situation left by the breakdown of the negotiations conducted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath).
The hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) talked about "joining Europe". I felt that, early in the debate, I had to say that we should stop talking about "joining Europe". For my part, I am a European. For me, Britain is Europe. This is not something which was settled by crosses on ballot papers in elections. It has been settled by crosses on the battlefields of Europe for a thousand years and more. Let it be clearly understood that the Labour Government and the movement on which they rest understand that Britain is Europe and want a united Europe.
There is a long history to this. We are not discussing a united Europe for the first time. Richard Cobden and the radicals were discussing it in the House 100 years ago. The first Workers' International was formed on the initiative of British trade unions, and we celebrated its centenary last year. It declared itself in favour of the confederation of free States of Europe. Keir Hardie, the founder, was taking an interest in Europe 40 years before Briand—and Ernest Bevin, in the International Transport Worker's Federation, was interested in it in the 1920's and 1930's.
2155 Let us look at the real declaration of intent. The real declaration of intent is the whole content of this speech. The hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury will, once again, have to listen to a considered statement of the Government's view. First, it should be realised that there are a number of European organisations each with much to their credit. The document which contained the five conditions opened by referring to the E.E.C. as a great and imaginative concept and went on to pay tribute to its political importance in ending the European civil war based on conflict between France and Germany. Hon. Members opposite should not denigrate E.F.T.A. The record of E.F.T.A. since 1958 has been very substantial.
§ Mr. Ridley
May I make it quite clear that nothing that I or any of my hon. Friends said was meant as denigration of E.F.T.A.?
§ Mr. Padley
I would not withdraw it. I hope that hon. Members will not make remarks which appear to be a denigration of E.F.T.A. because E.F.T.A. consists of 90 million Europeans and it is one-third of free Europe. But it is not only E.F.T.A. with which we are concerned. There is also the E.E.C. We collaborate in O.E.C.D. with our European partners, in Western European Union and in the Council of Europe. I insist that E.F.T.A., E.E.C. and the other organisations have great achievements to their credit, but that none of them is Europe. We should cease talking as though the E.E.C. were Europe. It is certainly the largest and in that sense the most important of the European organisations to emerge in the post-war period, but the plain truth is that in so far as Britain has treaty obligations in these international organisations we have already surrendered some measure of our sovereignty.
When it comes to a question of independent foreign policies, the plain fact is that the greatest surrender of sovereignty which has taken place in the post-war period has been in Britain's defence arrangements, and this Government's proposals for an Atlantic nuclear force is a proposal to surrender more political sovereignty to international organisations, including Europe, than any 2156 proposal made by the Conservative Party. It is important that we do not confuse the categories when we are dealing with the subject of Britain's relationship with Europe.
Both E.F.T.A. and the E.E.C. have the objective of achieving the greater unity of Europe as a whole. That is the important declaration of intent today and that is the purpose of the Government—to fulfil the aim of both E.F.T.A. and the E.E.C. to achieve the greater unity of Europe as a whole.
Everyone in the House knows that it is simply not practical politics for Britain to join the Community now. That door was shut in 1963 and we have been given no inkling that it is yet even slightly ajar.
§ Mr. Padley
I have already declared that we seek the greater unity of Europe. I shall develop this theme. But in my view it is urgently necessary for us not only to say that we want to create a greater unity of Europe—as the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have both said, a Common Market which the Community, Britain and the countries of E.F.T.A. and others, if they wish, can join. It is also necessary to be intensely practical, because in a matter of two years the Community and E.F.T.A. will have achieved their reduction of internal tariffs and the common external tariff of the Community will stand between one-third and two-thirds of free Europe.
I am sorry that hon. Members opposite should seek to denigrate the initiative which arose out of the meeting of the two dozen European statesmen at Chequers. The fact that it happened to be a Socialist international meeting does not alter the fact that it consisted of Prime Ministers, deputy Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers from the Six and the Seven. This meeting arose as a spontaneous reaction to the recognition that there was a danger that the economic division of Europe would harden and that the follies of economic nationalism might be repeated on a larger scale than hitherto.
Must we acquiesce in this unnatural division? Must we simply wail outside 2157 the walls of Common Market Europe? Is it wrong for the Prime Minister and his colleagues to go to Vienna and propose that within the Council of E.F.T.A. there should be consideration of how this unnatural and artificial division of Europe should be ended? We should have been failing in our duty had we not done that.
I do not want to anticipate the discussions within the Council of E.F.T.A. Certainly, the right hon. Gentleman is right that in discussions at Vienna, in which I participated, almost all the ideas for ending the division were aired. The reference to the Common Market joining E.F.T.A. was certainly not put by the Prime Minister as a hard proposal. As everybody knows, this is the Münchmeyer plan, and it still has strong support in some European countries, particularly Germany; and it will be considered even though, after the Maudling experience, some hon. and right hon. Members feel that it is impracticable.
There has been reference to the Kennedy Round. It is a fact that to make a success of the Kennedy Round is the most practical thing which we in Britain can do to solve the immediate problem and to promote closer unity in Europe. It is, therefore, necessary to get the maximum possible agreement between Britain and her European partners. I am proud of the fact that of all the major industrial countries which submitted exception lists, ours from Britain is the shortest. If we could get a 50 per cent. cut in industrial tariffs across the board, this would greatly reduce the dangers of inflated economic nationalism in a couple of years.
There is also the problem of agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the five conditions. As the Prime Minister said the other day, this is not a question of theology. I wish that hon. and right hon. Members opposite would cease to regard the five conditions as the Ten Commandments.
§ Mr. Padley
The Prime Minister made it clear that this is not a question of theology, but a practical issue. The five conditions will be interpreted pragmatically in the realities of 1965-66-67-68. 2158 One of those realities is the problem of the agricultural policy of the Community. If the price of grain is £20 a ton as Britain imports it, and if Britain pays £27 a ton to her own farmers, and if the Community's price is £36 a ton—if that is roughly the order of the figures, obviously there is a problem. One does not cease to be a good European because one looks the economic facts in the face.
It is true that, as part of the Kennedy Round, discussions are going on about the whole question of agricultural subsidies. These problems, which would arise during any negotiations of Britain's entry into the Common Market, would also form a substantial part of the negotiations in the Kennedy Round on agricultural problems, and the success in the forum of G.A.T.T. in getting a new approach to agricultural policies, prices and tariffs would be a great contribution to removing one of the practical difficulties about Britain's ultimate entry into the Common Market.
A second device open to us is to increase industrial and technical cooperation. I noted the half-hearted attitude of several hon. Members opposite on this issue. What are we to do? If we do not collaborate with members of the Common Market we are accused of being Little Englanders and not good Europeans. When we take new initiatives going beyond the policies of the previous Government in seeking bilateral and multilateral arrangements with our N.A.T.O. partners and European countries, then we are accused by the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury of selling the pass and giving away a good bargaining card.
Hon. Members opposite must make up their minds. Declarations of intent, mere words, accompanied by a refusal of Britain to participate in the Concord and other plans—
§ Mr. Padley
There was a suggestion by the hon. Members for Cirencester and Tewkesbury and for York (Mr. Long-bottom) that there was danger in this collaboration because Britain would be giving away a technological bargaining counter.
§ Mr. Longbottom
I said that there was a danger in an entanglement which would make it more difficult eventually to sign the Treaty of Rome or to join the Common Market.
§ Mr. Padley
As far as I am aware, no one has produced evidence to show that collaboration on research and development for the production of industrial products of the new industrial revolution would be a barrier to our entry. I was, therefore, a little alarmed by these warnings which were given. We attach great importance to this collaboration and I am glad to note that the right hon. and learned Member for Conway does.
§ Mr. Padley
It is an extension of a policy which we inherited, but there is a new initiative in this field.
It will be necessary often on technical grounds for these schemes of industrial co-operation with Europe to be begun on a bilateral basis, but it is the Government's policy to achieve a greater measure of multilateral collaboration not only with France, but also with Germany, Italy and other countries of Europe and possibly of the Commonwealth, because it is important for us to ask ourselves not only whether Europe should unite but also the purpose for which Europe should unite.
That is why I regarded the speech of the hon. Member for South Angus as dangerous, because his conception of a separate centre of defence decisions in Europe is dangerous. I believe that it would wreck the Atlantic Alliance, would be divisive and might imperil the peace of the world. What we need is the most effective division of labour within the alliance. Certainly, as the years go by, the European part of the Atlantic Alliance will be strengthened. Inevitably, over the years there will be a stronger European idea within the Atlantic Alliance. But any proposal to set up separate centres of decision or separate European deterrents is opposed firmly by the Government. We regard it as a dangerous idea, which seems to be held by an increasing number of hon. Members opposite, that Britain can somehow buy off the French veto by having the British nuclear power in association with the French as a separate European deterrent.
2160 Then we come to the question of political unity. I am not prepared to accept the proposition that discussions on the political future of Europe should take place in the restricted group of the Six. Inevitably, if they wish to have discussions, they can have them. I remind the House, however, that of the seven countries of the original Brussels Treaty of Western European Union, if Britain is out of step economically by not being in the Common Market, France is out of step on most issues these days on questions affecting the alliance and defence. Since I regard political unity as being as much a question of defence as of economics, I believe that Britain should assert her right to participate fully in any political discussions on the future of Europe.
Discussions of political union take place in restricted groups and we could end up by a hardening of the political division of Europe as well as a hardening of the economic division of Europe. In so far as my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin is right and hon. Members opposite are right—that the problem of Britain's relationship with Europe is as much a political as an economic issue—it is important for us to continue to express our desire to participate.
Certainly, at the present time, Britain—and this would be true under a Conservative Government equally as under the present Government—is prepared to go as far in pooling sovereignty in the political union of Europe as the Six collectively. That is an obvious statement of fact in view of the known policy of the French Government.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Since the hon. Gentleman is making this important declaration of the Government's policy towards Europe, before completing what he is saying on the political relationships can he answer this one simple question: is it or is it not the desire of the present Government to join the European Economic Community as and when the opportunity offers?
§ Mr. Padley
As my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have made abundantly clear, we seek the creation of a European Common Market to which the Six, Britain and other countries can belong. Alongside our declarations on defence policy, on industrial collaboration and on the need 2161 to make a success of the Kennedy Round, that constitutes not only an integrated policy for solving the immediate problem of the division of Europe between E.F.T.A. and the E.E.C., but also, as a result of the discussions in E.F.T.A. and our pressures through Western European Union and similar organisations for political discussion on the future of Europe, it offers the hope of building unity on a practical basis.
On the question of the declaration of intent, as I said earlier I regard the whole of my speech today as our declaration of intent both on the economic problem and on the political problem of Europe. At this moment, however, when there is obviously no chance of Britain's joining the Common Market, a declaration of intent to do something unspecified in unspecified circumstances would not be a constructive contribution to the discussions which are now taking place.
I hope that what I have said today will lead hon. Members, in all parts of the House, to wish us well in our discussions in E.F.T.A. to get a real unity of Europe in the not distant future.