HC Deb 08 July 1969 vol 786 cc1153-9
Q1. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister whether he will seek to convene a conference, under his chairmanship, of Prime Ministers in the European Economic Community and the European Free Trade Association countries for discussions about European unity following the election of the new French President.

Q2. Mr. John Fraser

asked the Prime Minister if he will seek further support from European Heads of State for the Declaration on Europe signed by the United Kingdom and the Republic of Italy.

Q3. Mr. Luard

asked the Prime Minister whether he will undertake a further round of visits to Common Market capitals to discuss Great Britain's application to join the Community.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I have no plans at present either for convening a conference of European Prime Ministers or for a tour of Common Market capitals.

On the Declaration on Europe my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary made it clear at the signature ceremony on 28th April that we welcome the adhesion to the Declaration of other countries who desire to see a free and united Europe.

Mr. Marten

Can the Prime Minister say whether the original assurances given to our E.F.T.A. partners if we join the Common Market still stand? Second, can he say why it should be a disservice to the House of Commons if the cost of Britain's joining the Common Market is revealed, which he said the other day?

The Prime Minister

On the first question, there is no change in the position relating to E.F.T.A. I have had an opportunity of discussing this very point with the Swedish Prime Minister, and indeed with others concerned, in the last two or three days.

With regard to the second question, as I repeated to the hon. Gentleman—I think I answered a supplementary question by him, or by another hon. Gentleman, on 10th June—the problem is not that it is a disservice to give figures but that it is almost impossible to give an accurate figure at the present time, particularly when the Common Market itself has to make its own fresh arrangements in respect of agriculture under the Treaty of Rome.

Mr. Fraser

My right hon. Friend will recall that in the Declaration on Europe there was a commitment to increase aid to developing countries, and, second, a commitment that the European institutions should be sustained by an elected European Parliament. On the first, can my right hon. Friend see any immediate increase in European aid to developing countries? On the second, will the democratisation of European institutions be a part of the negotiations for us to enter Europe?

The Prime Minister

On the first question, I have nothing to add to what has been said so far as Britain is concerned in recent debates on the question of aid, though it has been generally agreed that if Europe becomes economically stronger as a result of closer integration this will be of direct help to all developing countries who rely on Europe for assistance.

On the second question, the position—and this is referred to in the Declaration—is that we accept the democratic institutions set out in the Treaty of Rome. It does not go beyond that point so far as other political institutions in Europe are concerned.

Mr. Luard

Whatever procedure is used by the Government to reactivate our application, is it not the case that the negotiations which will take place among the Common Market countries about the financing of the common agricultural policy will be of vital importance to the interests of this country, and is it not essential that we should be in a position to express our views on this policy as early as possible?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. As my hon. Friend knows, in the last few days I have been discussing this with the Foreign Minister of Germany, as well as with the Swedish and Finnish Prime Ministers. I do not believe that it is right for us at this time to take any further initiative in this matter. It is now a matter for the Six themselves who are due to meet this month, and who have a number of important decisions to take about their own affairs later in the year. My hon. Friend may have seen that in my hearing yesterday the German Foreign Minister made it clear that it was his view that in the further consideration of agricultural matters by the Six his colleagues within the Six would be wise to bring Britain and other applicant countries into consultation.

Sir C. Osborne

Would not it be better to try to build a real united Europe, stretching from the Urals to the Atlantic, rather than struggle to get into a half-united Europe, which will permanently divide Europe?

The Prime Minister

I do not know why the hon. Gentleman wants to split the Soviet Union down the middle, as his geographical proposals would do. I do not think that there is any desire of the part of the Soviet Union and others to join an integrated economic community of this kind, but the hon. Member will be aware of the initiative taken by N.A.T.O. in Iceland last year, and repeated in Washington, in favour of much closer relations aimed at a détente between Western and Eastern Europe. These are two separate problems, and I probably carry the hon. Gentleman with me in saying that I think that both are important.

Mr. Jay

Do I understand that the Government propose to embark on negotiations with the E.E.C. at a time when the Prime Minister now says that it is impossible to estimate the economic consequencies?

The Prime Minister

Our application has been made and it remains in. The reason why I said that it is impossible to make a calculation on certain aspects of agricultural financing is that two things are necessary. First, the Common Market has to take decisions itself. After all, when its members complain about having to feed butter back to cows, that would suggest that they recognise that there are difficulties for themselves to settle. Second, of course, it has always been understood, from the time when my right hon. Friend was a member of the Cabinet, that the final cost would depend very much on the progress of our negotiations on agricultural financing, as opposed to agricultural policy.

Mr. Jennings

In any future talks which the right hon. Gentleman might have on this subject, will he make it clear that he is not prepared to commit this country to joining a politically federated Europe?

The Prime Minister

I have answered that question very many times. My understanding of the Treaty of Rome—I am glad to have had it confirmed by some of my colleagues yesterday—is that the only political implications of joining the economic community are those set out in the Treaty of Rome, which relate specifically to the institutions of the treaty. Ideas which others may have had that to join means an automatic commitment to some kind of political or defence federation are not justified, either by the treaty or by the present Ministers responsible for running the treaty.

If the House could bear with me for one moment, I should like to quote from the statement made by Herr Willi Brandt yesterday, which was important in this context, and might clear up a lot of doubt, He said: We said in 1967 that we had always agreed that the Communities' institutions would develop and that their activities would expand to wider fields beyond the activities covered by the existing Treaties. We cannot forecast exactly how these matters will develop, but once we are admitted to the Communities, we shall be willing to discuss and agree with our partners the steps needed to make Europe further integrated. He made it clear that political unity in Europe would not be done by established machinery.

Mr. Grimond

While accepting what the right hon. Gentleman said about the extreme difficulties about the calculations, may I ask, in view of the fact that various figures are being bandied about in the Press, whether it would not be advisable for him to give some estimates, on certain assumptions, of the effects of joining the Common Market on specific fields like agriculture and the balance of payments?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir; as soon as it is meaningful to do so, I agree that all the information available should be given. I must apologise to the House. The section which I read from the speech of Herr Brandt was the wrong one and I think that it is important to get on record what he said. He said that economic integration …does not lead automatically to political union. This differs very much from the view which was predominant when the Treaty of Rome was put on paper. The view which is shared by many today, and I belong to those who share it, is that, of course, economic integration has certain political results, but for what has been called political integration, leading to more than inter-governmental cooperation in the field of developing common views on world politics, this demands special activity, something in addition to what is done in the economic field, and it demands also eventually an apparatus of its own. This was the particular quotation which I had in mind.

Mr. J. T. Price

But is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a growing body of opinion in the House that Britain's entry into the Common Market in the context of contemporary European politics is a non-runner? Is he aware that those who persistently back non-runners at a racecourse are a godsend to the bookmakers—whoever they may be in the context of our own affairs? Is he further aware that many of us are greatly disturbed—although we are by no means "Little Englanders"—at the prospect of any further erosion of British sovereignty in European or world affairs, because we should like better evidence that those now running the Economic Community are better able to solve their own problems before they start trying to solve ours?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend said that he was worried, but he did not sound a bit worried. But when he said that he felt that this would be a non-runner in the present state of European politics, I was not sure whether he was referring to certain economic problems in the Treaty of Rome or to various political developments in the countries concerned. On economics, I have referred, as the House knows, to the serious difficulties within the Six on agriculture. After all, many in all parts of the House among those who most strongly wanted to join the Common Market have warned about some of the agricultural developments for many years—[Interruption.]—like many of us, over many years, including our negotiations in 1967. But if my hon. Friend is referring to political difficulties in Europe, I should have thought that the case for a closer political integration of Britain and Europe on many questions, going far beyond economics, might be the best protection against the danger which he so clearly foresees.

Mr. Heath

In the first quotation which the Prime Minister produced—which, if I recollect correctly, came from one of his own speeches—he said, rightly, that any implications for sovereignty in the economic field are clearly defined under the Treaty of Rome and that any political developments would require a fresh treaty or fresh negotiations. To remove any confusion, would he say what the Government's present view is of any further developments in the political field outside the Treaty of Rome which would require a new treaty, and whether they would be federal, confederal or non-federal arrangements?

The Prime Minister

The quotation was not from one of my speeches or from one of the right hon. Gentleman's, but what I read later was exactly what Herr Brandt said, on the record yesterday, in my hearing. What he said then is what I think a number of us in all parts of the House have said—that there is no automatic obligation to any political federation or any separate kind of political unity by signing or adhering to the Treaty of Rome. But many of us feel that there is a case for developing institutions towards political unity in Europe. I think that the right answer, therefore, in the first instance, is what Her Majesty's Government are doing, with, I think, the support of right hon. Gentlemen opposite—namely, invoking the machinery of the W.E.U. for closer political contacts. None of this implies any automatic commitment to a federal or confederal Europe.