HC Deb 20 May 1968 vol 765 cc21-4
26. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the Government's present policy concerning the British application to join the European Economic Community.

Mr. M. Stewart

I have nothing to add to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) on 1st April.—[Vol. 762, c. 6–7.]

Mr. St. John-Stevas

In view of the dead end which the British application to join the E.E.C. has unfortunately reached, will the Foreign Secretary order a full-scale inquiry into the possibilities of the proposed North Atlantic free trade area?

Mr. Stewart

As the House has been informed, the possibilities of this have already been studied; but I think, to use the hon. Gentleman's phrase, that it would be a dead end.

Mr. Shinwell

In the light of the present state of affairs in France, will my right hon. Friend send a message to President de Gaulle informing him that we are not prepared to enter the European Economic Community until France puts its affairs in order?

Mr. Stewart

No, Sir.

Mr. Turton

Reverting to the right hon. Gentleman's original Answer, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that 82 right hon. and hon. Members of all parties have pressed for a new feasibility study for an open-ended free trade area? As the Prime Minister said that the earlier one was conducted before he made the application, now is the time to have another one, is it not?

Mr. Stewart

I do not believe that there is sufficient evidence to warrant the use of time and resources in that manner.

Mr. Blenkinsop

As the situation in France has become a great deal more flexible, would not it be the right moment to take any opportunity that arises to press our desire for association with Western Europe?

Mr. Stewart

My right hon. Friend used the term "association"; I do not think that he was using it in the technical sense. Our application is for full membership of the Community. Meanwhile, we are giving particular attention to the Benelux proposals, and would do so to any line of action which would bring us closer to Western Europe and lead directly to our membership of the Community.

36. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will take steps to convene a conference of the Foreign Ministers of the States that are members of the European Economic Community and of those that wish to be, on the lines of the proposals made by the Italian Government on 23rd February, 1968.

Mr. M. Stewart

We welcomed the Italian proposals and are ready to take part in such a conference. At the moment, however, the members of the European Economic Community are still continuing their own discussions and I think we must await the outcome of their next meeting.

Mr. Ridley

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that the feeling is growing in Europe that the time is ripe for a British initiative and that we could possibly help to break the European deadlock if the Government were to take the steps leading towards such a conference?

Mr. Stewart

I understand and sympathise with what the hon. Gentleman has said, but I think at present we should let the members of the E.E.C. continue their own discussions.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

The Prime Minister has said that the Government will consider any proposal emanating from the Six—from the Community as a whole— whereas the Foreign Secretary has said that these proposals to be acceptable must lead directly to full membership of the E.E.C. Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that in this case it is the Prime Minister who is expressing the Government view?

Mr. Stewart

The two propositions are not in conflict. We should want proposals from the Six and should not want them to be a substitute for full membership, which is the objective of our policy.

37. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action he has now taken in reply to the initiative of the Governments of the Benelux States for a regular procedure of consultation between member and candidate states for the European Economic Community.

Mr. M. Stewart

We have made it clear both to the Benelux Governments and to the other Governments concerned that we warmly support this proposal and are ready to play our full part in every channel of consultation open to us.

Mr. Ridley

In view of the paralysis created by France, not only in the Common Market but in France also, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he must begin to put pressure on to get European unity moving again and that this also is another way in which he could help by supporting these proposals?

Mr. Stewart

We have made clear our support of these proposals. The rest of my answer must be the same as that which I gave the hon. Gentleman a few moments ago.

Mr. Henig

In view of my right hon. Friend's initial position—that we are only interested in listening to proposals from the whole of the Six—does not he feel that it is odd for the Government to listen to and, apparently, actively to encourage proposals from the three smallest countries in the E.E.C? Does not this jeopardise our whole European strategy?

Mr. Stewart

No, Sir. I do not think that that is so at all.