HC Deb 23 January 1968 vol 757 cc213-6
Q3. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Prime Minister if he will now make a further statement on Great Britain's application to join the European Economic Community; and what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to develop alternative economic and technological links.

04. Mr. Winnick

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on progress with the British application to enter the European Economic Community.

Mr. George Brown

I have been asked to reply.

I have nothing to add to the Statement I made to the House on 20th December.—[Vol. 756, c. 1267.]

Mr. Roberts

Would not the Foreign Secretary agree that we should now concentrate on economic and technological links in and out of Europe and forget our application, which is a dead duck? Would he further agree that we should now consider joining only when we are asked and on our terms?

Mr. Brown

I am sorry that I do not agree with that. I would like to do so, because I like my hon. Friend, but I do not agree with it. We must pursue our decision to become full members of the Community, partly because of its economic advantages and partly because of the political advantages for Europe. But I agree with my hon. Friend that in the meantime, while progress towards that desirable end is blocked, we should make as much progress as we can, technological and every other kind of progress, outside the Community.

Mr. Winnick

While it is inevitable that sooner or later we shall join with other countries in a wider European community, why should we not accept the realities of life and see that there is no chance of our entering the Common Market for some time to come?

Mr. Brown

Very often my hon. Friend's views on what are the realities of life and mine seem to differ. I still wish to try to arrange that we should become, with others, members of an enlarged community, as my hon. Friend puts it, as soon as possible, but I repeat that, in the meantime, we will do what we can to develop associations outside the Community while waiting to get the wider Europe for which we are looking.

Mr. David Howell

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the recent Benelux proposals for closer economic and political links between the Five and Britain and the three other countries seeking entry to the Common Market, links outside the Treaty of Rome? What view does the right hon. Gentleman take of that?

Mr. Brown

Of course I have seen them, and there is a great deal to be said for what is proposed. I am now considering what reply to make to Benelux and the other countries.

Mr. Heath

Will the right hon. Gentleman publish the Benelux memorandum so that we can see exactly what is proposed? Would he also confirm that what he is now considering is consultation about matters outside the Treaty of Rome between the Six and ourselves and not between five or four or three members of the Six and ourselves?

Mr. Brown

I thought that the Benelux proposals were already published, but of course I shall place them in the Library. As to developments outside the Common Market, it is no part of our business to disrupt the Community. Quite clearly, as we want to join the Community, nothing could be more stupid than to disrupt it. Therefore, if we could develop associations and arrangements with the Six outside the Treaty of Rome, that would be perfect, but if we cannot it would be silly to deny ourselves the opportunity to develop them with those European countries with whom we can develop them, and we are pursuing every channel.

Mr. Shinwell

In my right hon. Friend's original Answer to the Question, he informed the House that he had nothing more to say. Could he not have contented himself with that observation? In view of the economic plight in which we find ourselves and as there is a great deal of muddle—[Laughter.]—we know that there is muddle on the other side of the House and there is a great deal of muddle in the country—which causes confusion, why do the Government bother about this Common Market business? Why should they not be quiet about it?

Mr. Brown

I do not accept what my right hon. Friend says about muddle. I do not accept that he or I or any of us in the House can ignore what will happen in the next decade, much less ignore what will happen over the next two decades. This will certainly require that we develop a more integrated Europe. I believe that my right hon. Friend and I owe it to those to whom we are to hand over affairs—[Laughter.]—the other side are clearly giggling a bit early in the day; the people to whom we will hand over affairs are my children and my grandchildren, and the children and grandchildren of others, and we need to hand over to them a more integrated Europe, a Europe playing a more powerful political part than the present disorganised Europe plays. My right hon. Friend and I ought to be devoting all our time to trying to bring that about.

Sir G. de Freitas

Will the Foreign Secretary suggest to his right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology that when he speaks on Monday in the Council of Europe Assembly he should suggest for discussion the planning of a technological link, adaptable both to our associations with the Six and also to an expanding Community?

Mr. Brown

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology has that very much in mind. One of the contributions that we can make, not by any means the only one, to a more integrated Europe is through technological development, putting our capacity for research and development and production in the greater home market. I would be very surprised if my right hon. Friend does not make exactly that point when he speaks.

Several Hon. Members rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Private Notice Question, Mr. Braine.

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