HC Deb 26 June 1974 vol 875 cc1548-9
34. Mr. Jay

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consultations he has had with EFTA countries arising out of his renegotiation with the EEC.

Mr. Hattersley

None, Sir, as yet. But we shall of course be ready to discuss with the EFTA countries any developments in renegotiation which merit such discussion.

Mr. Jay

Has any of the EFTA countries told the British Government that it would not wish to continue industrial free trade with this country in the event of our withdrawal from the EEC?

Mr. Hattersley

No, Sir. I have no doubt that the EFTA countries would wish to do so. The problem to which we must address our minds is whether other countries would want to do the same.

Mr. Fairgrieve

Does the Minister agree that the total population of EFTA was about 90 million, of which Britain provided 55 million, and that, therefore, from the point of view of Britain, the whole arrangement was a farce?

Mr. Hattersley

No. I certainly do not subscribe to that view. I believe that EFTA, in its time, had very considerable benefits to offer Britain and considerable benefits to be enjoyed by the other members. Again, the question that we must decide is whether those times have now passed or whether it can be recreated.

Mr. Rippon

May I express the hope that the Minister will have consultations with EFTA countries, because clearly our interests are very much bound together? Will he confirm that no EFTA country has expressed any desire for Britain to leave the Community?

Mr. Hattersley

I confirm the second part of that question with pleasure. As to whether discussions take place with EFTA, as sooner or later they are bound to do, this depends on the progress and the nature of each stage of the renegotiations.

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