HC Deb 06 April 1970 vol 799 cc1-4
1. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on the Common Market negotiations.

24. Mr. Cronin

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on negotiations with regard to Great Britain's proposed application to join the European Economic Community.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. George Thomson)

In advance of the opening of negotiations, I am continuing my current visits to the capitals of the Six. Since I last answered questions on this subject, I have visited Brussels, The Hague and Luxembourg and have had valuable discussions with members of the Government in these countries. I plan to visit Bonn and Paris for similar discussions later this month.

Mr. Marten

Does the Minister recall when he visited Brussels on 11th March saying at the airport that political unification was part and parcel of the British approach to Europe? As the Government's policy is to have nothing to do with federalism or supra-nationalism, what did he mean by "political unification" in Europe?

Mr. Thomson

I am sure that if the hon. Gentleman says that is what I said at Brussels Airport I must have said it. I had assumed that in most quarters of the House there was a good deal of general support for the idea of greater political unity in Western Europe. But that does not carry with it any obligation towards federalism in either the political or defence field.

Mr. Jay

Did my right hon. Friend say at Luxembourg, as reported, that we are asking for no exceptions from the common agricultural policy? If in negotiations we do not even ask for concessions, how do we expect to get any?

Mr. Thomson

I am flattered by the closeness and care with which my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side and hon. Gentlemen opposite follow my reported utterances. I am not responsible for all the speculations made about what I say on these visits, but I can assure my right hon. Friend that I did not say what he fears I might have said.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Since it has now become clear from continental reactions that the irresponsible speech of the Minister without Portfolio has seriously prejudiced Britain's application to join the E.E.C., will the Minister make it clear that the Minister without Portfolio has no portfolio or brief of any kind as an official spokesman of the Government on foreign affairs?

Mr. Thomson

No, Sir. I cannot accept the implications of what the hon. Gentleman is saying. He is wasting his time trying to detect differences between various Ministerial utterances. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] There is none. My right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio, who was speaking as a former Economics Minister, was simply drawing attention to the real balance of payments problem there would be for this country if, as he said, the terms were not right. The Government's policy, backed by the great majority of the House, remains to seek terms that are right, believing that with good will these can be obtained and that this will be best both for Britain and Europe.

6. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received from Commonwealth governments against Her Majesty's Government's intentions to commence negotiations on entry to the European Economic Community.

Mr. George Thomson

None, Sir.

Mr. Hamilton

That is very surprising. Is my right hon. Friend confident that he can get agreements which will satisfy the requirements of, for instance, New Zealand and the Commonwealth countries concerned with the Sugar Agreements, because these two problems are of crucial importance to the House agreeing to British entry to the Common Market?

Mr. Thomson

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I am not a prophet but I can assure my hon. Friend that we shall fulfil the undertakings we have given to our Commonwealth partners.

Mr. Fortescue

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the common agricultural policy is not an integral part of the Treaty of Rome, and that in seeking to adhere to the Treaty we are not automatically undertaking to adhere to the common agricultural policy in its present form?

Mr. Thomson

The Treaty of Rome is there for anybody to examine. The common agricultural policy has been developed by the six countries which are adherents to the Treaty. Our position has always been that we are ready to come to terms with that common agricultural policy, but a central feature of the negotiations from our point of view will be the agricultural aspects of the negotiations and whether we are able to get fair terms and a fair share of the costs of whatever common agricultural policy is developed by that time.

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