HC Deb 24 May 1966 vol 729 c277
Q2. Mr. Farr

asked the Prime Minister if he will arrange for early talks with the European Free Trade Association designed to establish a basis for a trading partnership with the European Economic Community.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Member to the statement made to the House on 16th May by my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State.

Mr. Farr

Is the Prime Minister aware that it is possible that the necessary safeguards relating to our sovereignty, Cornmonwealth and home agriculture may well make it impossible for this country to join the E.E.C.? Would he not, therefore, agree that it would be better to concentrate on establishing a free trade area, thereby giving our manufacturers the chance to have a larger home market without the political drawbacks which are associated with it?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman may be aware that at Vienna about a year ago we proposed that there should be an approach by E.F.T.A. to the E.E.C. to discuss what bridge building there might be between the two blocs, not excluding the kind of arrangement the hon. Gentleman has in mind. I think that he is really talking about a variant of the Munchmeyer plan, but this does not preclude—[Interruption.]—we think that it would be unsafe to reply on the sort of thinking the hon. Gentleman has in mind. What we are doing is to have direct probing to see on what conditions Britain could join the E.E.C., and other E.F.T.A. countries as well.