HC Deb 11 April 1968 vol 762 cc1579-81
Q2. Sir Knox Cunningham

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now seek a meeting with the President of France in order to discuss the present situation with regard to the United Kingdom's application to join the Common Market.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. and learned Member to the Answer I gave on 2nd April to a similar Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Henig).—[Vol. 762, c. 74.]

Sir Knox Cunningham

Without the support of France, what hope is there of making progress with our application? Since we have now dropped the European pilot at the Foreign Office, might we not drop the master, too?

The Prime Minister

I answered the more sensible parts of that question last week, as the hon. Member will see if he looks up what I said. Our dealings so far as entry to the Common Market is concerned are and must be with the Six as a whole. I think we have all formed our own view about the nature of the underlying political opposition at this stage to our entry which is to be expected from the Goverment of France. I do not feel—nor does the Foreign Secretary, who is as passionately keen that we should get into Europe as his predecessor was—that a separate approach to the Government of France would help.

Mr. Henig

Would not my right hon. Friend think it at least a good idea to try to see whether this country and France can get together while there is still time, to see if together they can in some way influence the future pattern of Europe before other forces and other powers, perhaps less reputable, seek their opportunity?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend will be aware that last year I had two very lengthy discussions with the President of France on these questions. Recognising as one does his strong feelings about American penetration of Europe, I was able, I hope, to bring home to him—if not to convince him—that the most important thing is the development of strong European industries less dependent on the United States than some leading French industries—aircraft production, computers, and others—are today. I do not think that a further discussion with him would help to reach a basic agreement on what his views about independence from America mean in terms of the single industrial market we need.

Mr. David Howell

Far from getting together with de Gaulle, does not the Prime Minister agree that the time has come when waiting for de Gaulle is not an adequate policy either from the British or European point of view? Does he not agree that the stage has been reached when more specific proposals, perhaps more specific than the technology institute, are now needed to respond to the Benelux proposals, the Fanfani Memorandum and other aspirations for European unity?

The Prime Minister

I agree that that is the approach. We have warmly welcomed the Benelux proposals, and have discussed them with each of the three Governments concerned with formulating them. We are hard at work in discussions with the C.B.I., among others, to give specific content to our latest proposals on technology. I agree with the hon. Member that this should be our next step.

Mr. Roebuck

Has not my right hon. Friend studied the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the Pilgrims' Dinner on Monday in which he is reported as saying that we have no chance of getting into Europe and that we must sit tight and keep our fingers crossed? Is that the view of the Government, and if not, will the Prime Minister see the Chancellor privately on his return?

The Prime Minister

I have already seen the Chancellor. I think my hon. Friend's account of the speech is a rather loose translation.