HC Deb 15 November 1966 vol 736 cc220-1
Q3. Sir T. Beamish

asked the Prime Minister which of the conditions that he has laid down before the United Kingdom could join the Common Market would necessitate permanent changes in the Customs Union, the common agricultural policy or the structure and functions of the existing institutions of the European Economic Community; and if he will now modify these conditions to avoid the need for such changes and open the way for preliminary negotiations with a view to joining the Common Market by 1969.

The Prime Minister

The precise arrangements to be made in order to safeguard our essential interests would be central to any negotiation. It would not be right for me to define in advance the circumstances in which application might be made for entry.

Sir T. Beamish

Since that does not answer the Question one little bit, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that if he would make a hearty meal of his Bristol speech he would be going a long way to disarming his critics, who sit in substantial numbers on both sides of the House and who genuinely want to see a successful national effort to get this country into Europe?

The Prime Minister

It was not an accident that I did not give the hon. and gallant Gentleman a fuller answer to his Question. It is my view that if we are to get the best possible results, first from the discussions which my right hon. Friend and I will be having and then, if the conditions are right, from any subsequent negotiations, it would be foolish to give away all our terms in advance.

Mr. Shinwell

Has my right hon. Friend not reversed his original policy in this connection? Have we not frequently made it clear that we were not prepared to go into the Common Market except on stipulated conditions, and that even if some of them have suffered erosion there are some conditions whose acceptance we must demand before we enter the Common Market?

The Prime Minister

In 1962, we said that we were ready to go in, provided, as my right hon. Friend says, that certain essential conditions were met. Over the last year or two, before the last election and in our election manifesto, we have said that we are ready and eager to go in provided that we can ensure that essential British and Commonwealth interests are observed. That is still the position, and that, of course, is what I said last Thursday.