HC Deb 11 February 1969 vol 777 cc1119-22
Q5. Mr. Henig

asked the Prime Minister what further initiatives he proposes in 1969 with a view to further Great Britain's application to joint the European Economic Community.

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to the Answer I gave on the 4th of February to Questions by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) and the Answer my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs gave to a Question by the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) yesterday.—[Vol. 777, c. 203–5; c. 879–80.]

Mr. Henig

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is some alarm about increasing reports from Europe that our further efforts to get into the Community are resulting in a complete worsening of Anglo-French relations? Does he not think that British Government strategy should be reconsidered and that the way into Europe is through a deal with the French, rather than trying to fight them?

The Prime Minister

If my hon. Friend has any constructive proposals to make for a way into Europe, by a deal with the French, I should be very glad to have either a long or a short memorandum on the subject. Of course these matters are discussed in an amicable way with the French Government but that does not, of itself, remove the fundamental cleavage of view between the French Government on the one hand and ourselves and out friends in Europe on the other. My hon. Friend will further be aware that I shall be discussing some of these questions with the German Chancellor later this week.

Mr. Ronald Bell

How is the momentum getting on? If it is still there, could it not be applied to a more fruitful objective, such as the investigation of an alternative trading arrangement, like the Atlantic Free Trade Area?

The Prime Minister

The momentum, which we use our efforts and energies to generate and to keep moving, with the help of our friends in Europe, has up to now suffered the fate that all momenta suffer when they run into an irresistible object.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Does my right hon. Friend not think that a community embracing, say, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and those of the Commonwealth and E.F.T.A. countries that wanted to join, would be a far more outward-looking and advantageous community than the narrow, inward-looking E.E.C.?

The Prime Minister

Naturally, a community embracing the whole world would be even better. There are questions of the realities and the likelihood of achieving such a community at reasonable speed. Many of us who support British entry into the Common Market regard that as the best means of securing freer trade within the world community as a whole.

Mr. Heath

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House anything more about the political consultations which were agreed upon by the Foreign Secretary at Luxembourg? Is it correct that these are to take place in the context of the Western European Union and, if so, can the Prime Minister say what is new about this, because political discussions have always been going on in W.E.U., and that was one of the purposes of the Treaty? What is the point of describing them now as "compulsory discussions"? How can anyone be compelled to discuss a subject if they do not wish to do so?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman will remember that, after the first veto in 1963, his own Government turned to W.E.U. hoping that would provide a way around the veto. It did not, and they have been no more successful in that particular move. The right hon. Gentleman will feel that some progress was made at Luxembourg last week. There was my right hon. Friend's invitation to the Six to send representatives to a meeting in London later this week on the subject of the Middle East, on which there has been a complaint from France that we are not all agreed with one another—this is probably true. With regard to the so-called compulsory meetings, what is being sought is an arrangement under which the Six as a whole plus Britain, if the Six as a whole will agree, if not then as many as will agree, will pledge themselves in advance to have discussions on all matters of common world concern, political concern. This has not been the case in W.E.U. up to now.

Mr. Roebuck

Yes, but how do the Government reconcile, in their continued desire to make the Six into Seven, the two recent speeches of the Minister of Agriculture, in which he criticised the Common Agricultural Policy because it would send prices sky high, and the Prime Minister's acidulous observations in the House last week about the added value tax? Will my right hon. Friend not retreat to reality on this issue, give his hon. Friends something to cheer about and withdraw this wretched application?

The Prime Minister

I hope one day, perhaps not yet, to take my hon. Friend cheering forward to reality on this question with us. There is a Question on the Order Paper about the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture. He sets out what would be the consequences for Britain of the unilateral acceptance by us of the Common Market agricultural programme if it were not part of our entry into a Common Market in which we would at the same time get very signal advantages in return. In any case the C.A.P. as it is at present is due to be renegotiated before we are likely to be in the Common Market.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Whilst moderately congratulating the Prime Minister on the modest momentum achieved at Luxembourg, will he say what exactly are the topics on which it has been agreed to have consultation and what are the means of consultation it is intended to use?

The Prime Minister

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not strain himself with his congratulations, but I appreciate them as far as they go. The first case is, of course, the Middle East. There are already, and have been, a number of discussions on other world affairs, but what we inferred from Luxembourg, as I understand it—I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will give the House more information later in the week—was the proposal of a schedule of subjects for more organised discussions, and these will be continued at the next meeting of the W.E.U.