HC Deb 05 May 1975 vol 891 cc1004-5
11 . Mr. Blaker

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will pay an official visit to Brussels.

25 . Mr. Pardoe

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he has any plans to visit Brussels.

Mr. Shore

My practice has been, and remains, to go to Brussels as often as is necessary when matters for which I am responsible are under discussion.

Mr. Blaker

Has the right hon. Gentleman had any discussions with Ministers of the other EEC countries about the possibility of their agreeing to a free trade area with this country if we were to pull out of the EEC? If so, has the right hon. Gentleman any evidence that they would not insist on including food in any such agreement, which I believe was their position in the late 1950s?

Mr. Shore

If I were to report to the House that I had had discussions with other Ministers in the Council of Ministers I think that a lot of complaints would be heard that I had been exceeding my brief. I am afraid that I have not yet had the opportunity of embarking upon such discussions, but I do not take the view that we should, as it were, have to bring ourselves into the CAP—if that is the implication of the hon. Member's question—if we were simply negotiating a free trade area with the EEC.

Mr. Pardoe

Is the right hon. Gentleman really saying that if we come out there is an alternative to the EEC in the form of a free trade agreement in industrial goods, without the benefit of having been to Brussels to get a categorical assurance from our partners there that this is so? Will he, as a result of recent visits to Brussels, say which parts of the Treaty of Rome have had to be accepted by other EFTA countries which have succeeded in negotiating free trade agreements with the EEC?

Mr. Shore

I can tell the hon. Gentleman what they have not had to accept, which may be important. I am not aware of any budget contributions which EFTA countries which have free trade areas with the EEC have been obliged to make. Nor am I aware of any agreement which they have had to make about the free movement of capital, and I can think of a few others.

On the last question, I quote an answer given in the House: I have never doubted—indeed, I have always said—that if we were to leave the Community we would be able to negotiate a free trade agreement of some sort."—[Official Report, 30th April 1975; Vol. 891, c. 461.] That was said by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in reply to a question only a few days ago. I think that we had better leave it at that.

Mr. Spearing

When my right hon. Friend next goes to Brussels will he try to find out that proportion of our trade deficit which is attributable to the accessionary compensatory amounts which we now pay for food but which will be phased out in 1976, and sums such as the £16-a-ton subsidy which we are getting on grain imported from North America? Will not this mean that our deficit will rise after this stops?

Mr. Shore

I think that the position of our deficit is less certain, but it is undoubtedly true that as the accession compensatory amounts are phased out prices will automatically rise in the United Kingdom on all the food commodities which we import from the EEC.

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