HL Deb 02 March 1967 vol 280 cc1193-204

4.8 p.m.

LORD GLADWYN rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what was meant by the terms "Europe" and "Europeans" used by the Prime Minister in the thirteenth paragraph of his statement on Mr. Kosygin's visit to this country; and what were, broadly speaking, the political objectives which he then had in mind. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Question that stands in my name on the Order Paper to-day is not, I need hardly say, inspired by semantic or even geographical reasons. It is rather my hope that any Answer which the Government may see fit to give to it this afternoon may throw some light on their attitude towards what I believe is the greatest political issue of the day. As I see it the attitude of the Government on this great issue is the reverse of clear. And what I rather fear is that, when they talk about "getting into the Common Market", and "meaning business", the Government may, no doubt unwittingly, leave differing impressions on the minds of those with whom they are now discussing the possibility, in certain circumstances, of signing the Treaty of Rome.

For, surely, my Lords, in these great matters it is, above all, necessary to be clear as to the objective. The means of attaining it, the tactical approach, so to speak, may be shrouded in mystery; but the end itself should be clear and constant. Seeing that we are a democracy, it should be defined for all to judge, and not be in any way a secret du roi—which was hardly a satisfactory way of carrying out a foreign policy, even under an absolute Monarchy. I do not say that it is so; but I feel there is a certain danger that it may be so.

Let us then approach the passage in the Prime Minister's Statement to which I have referred in my Question. It appears in the Commons OFFICIAL REPORT for February 13, at columns 109–113, and in the OFFICIAL REPORT of your Lordships' House for the same day at columns 34–38. It refers to his talks with Mr. Kosygin. It is preceded, we note, by a passage which also deals with Europe, but which is absolutely clear, and, I should have thought, generally acceptable. In this preliminary passage the Prime Minister says that he explained to his guest the policy as regards nuclear consultation within NATO and the intention of our partners and ourselves to develop positive contacts for easing tension within Europe as a whole. All that, we are told, led up to Anglo-Soviet agreement on the desirability for closer bilateral relationships between individual Western and Eastern European countries. Well, my Lords, so far, as I say, so good.

However, in the next paragraph we soon reach the equivocal. After saying that he and Mr. Brown explained to Mr. Kosygin the purpose of the visits which they were paying to the capitals of the six member countries of the European Economic Community (and one would have thought perhaps that this purpose scarcely needed explaining), the Prime Minister then, apparently, emphasised the economic importance of the discussions we are holding there"— that is, in the various capitals— and particularly the contribution that Britain could make to the greater technological effectiveness of Europe. My Lords, that is an ambiguous statement. There is no mention here, you may note, of Europe as a whole, as in the preceding paragraph, which, presumably, means geographical Europe. So it could mean that Mr. Wilson hopes, by joining the European Economic Community, that this Community will become, in itself, more efficient technologically; indeed, we understand from the Press that this was an argument favouring our entry which he developed in talks with the Germans and the French. But, my Lords, it could mean, on the other hand, that by joining the European Economic Community, Mr. Wilson believes that he could, in some way, also increase the technological efficiency of the Communist States of Eastern Europe, and even that of the Soviet Union. If, indeed, this is his intention, it is not at all clear how, in practice, he would go about it.

Judging by previous statements, one had thought that the first thing the Government would do, if they did join the E.E.C., would be to encourage the emergence of some "European Technological Community" which would have to be limited to the membership of some enlarged European Economic Community, and indeed be part of it. Are we then going to argue that the Communist States of Eastern Europe should also, in some way, join the European Economic Community for technological purposes? Or is it our intention even to put at their disposal our nuclear know-how—that is, know-how for peaceful purposes, and not, naturally, for war-like ones? If so, it is a little difficult to see how this could be reconciled with EURATOM—Of which presumably we should by then also be a member, having come into the European Economic Community—unless EURATOM had been wound up and merged in E.E.C.

But on the assumption that the first interpretation is correct, namely, that we want to place our great technological resources primarily at the disposal of some enlarged European Economic Community, it is rather difficult to see how this could have appealed to Mr. Kosygin, with what appears to be his almost pathological dislike and distrust of our democratic allies, the Western Germans.

But, my Lords, it is when we come on to the next sentence that the obscurity thickens, and even a possible "doublethink" appears. Mr. Kosygin was told, so we read, that the Government had in mind political as well as economic objectives, in that one of the main purposes of our approach was not only to strengthen European unity and thereby to help to reduce European tension, and work towards a wider, fuller unity in Europe as a whole, but also to enable Europe to exert amore powerful influence in world affairs. What exactly, we may well ask, do the Government mean by "Europe" and "European unity" in this particular context? Do they, or do they not, mean that such unity should include the Soviet Union? If so, then the conception goes far beyond geographical Europe. It might, indeed, almost be said to imply a construction of Europe from the Atlantic to the Pacific! Or have they, perhaps, been persuaded by General de Gaulle that what they want to aim for is Europe united only "from the Atlantic to the Urals," though naturally with the participation of the United Kingdom— a development, of course, to which General de Gaulle now seems to be markedly lukewarm?

It is important to know how far, if at all, the Prime Minister went in this direction in his discussions with the Soviet leader. What the Government, in their search for some important new world role for these increasingly isolated Islands, do not seem to realise is that the European unity which they very rightly say they want (and which it would seem is now their supreme political objective) can come about only on some basis other than that of a completely independent nation State. For if attempts to form it on this last basis are made, there will clearly be no question of any greater unity than that which has already been achieved in such bodies as Western European Union or the Council of Europe; unless, indeed, one nation State takes the lead and effectively operates some kind of hegemony, in which case it is pretty obvious (always supposing, ex hypothesi, that America is excluded from Europe for geographical reasons, which is the Soviet thesis) who the leader of this European State would be.

What those who really believe in the European idea had been hoping was that the Prime Minister had been genuinely converted to the notion that (always supposing that, as he says, Europe must play a more powerful part in world affairs) it must be first created in a political sense by forming institutions in which a European unit, a European will, can be made manifest, and decisions increasingly taken in common. The only area in which such a development could possibly take place at the present time, and probably for quite a long time, is Western Europe, where a beginning has already been made, as we know, with the formation of the European Economic Community. The simple reason is that here we have a collection of medium-sized and smaller nation States all at more or less the same stage of social and political evolution, all with long common histories and cultural links, and all, of course, very much weakened by the last of the terrible European Civil Wars.

It is therefore possible for these States, provided they have the will, to come together in some form of union, and notably in the new and genial form of a Community. But it is not possible for such a union to include other European States which either have not reached the necessary level of industrial and social development or possess directed economies based on a denial of individual freedom, that priceless cultural heritage of Western Europe and, indeed, of what is called the whole Western World. Thus, in practice, unity—that European unity of which Mr. Wilson spoke in his talks with Mr. Kosygin—can be achieved only between the members of the present E.E.C., Britain and certain other members of EFTA. To suggest that there can be any other kind of European unity in a political sense is, either consciously or unconsciously, to delude the people.

How could we possibly have a European Community, with centralised institutions and a common social, transport, agricultural and even monetary policy, directed from one centre—which is what we are in for if we sign the Treaty of Rome—which included the vast totalitarian Soviet Empire, or Communist Czechoslovakia, or even Franco Spain? Any State which cannot join the Community for any reason could, of course, be associated with it—there is no question about that—but to suggest that the so-called "wider Europe" is something that can possibly emerge in a positive sense in the next ten or twenty years is either to have misconceived the entire situation or to accept the Gaullist philosophy of a "Europe of States", which is effectively a return to the "non-Europe" of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Mr. Kosygin, of course, is strongly in favour of a "Europe of States", of which a prominent, and indeed an essential, member would be the entirely sovereign and independent so-called "Deutsche Demokratische Republik". For his idea, quite clearly, is to keep down the Germans by splitting off their Eastern wing, and, by destroying the Western Alliance, of which their Western wing is now an important member, to create a situation in which the Soviet Union has a reasonable chance in the long run of dominating the Continent. With a weak collection of fellow-travelling régimes in his immediate rear, he would then be in a strong position for containing any expansionist tendencies on the part of China or, indeed, as he would no doubt put it, of America.

But, although one can discern Mr. Kosygin's policy and, indeed, understand his motives, there is no reason, from our point of view, why we should do anything to facilitate his aims. For if we do, we presumably vitiate our own primary objective—the gradual construction in Western Europe of a community which will ultimately be a thing-in-itself, and thus be capable of conducting a common foreign policy.

As soon as we get to this point, there is no reason, in theory at any rate, why the Americans should not leave the defence of Western Europe primarily to the Europeans, who, we should hope, while still remaining within the Alliance, could then become a valid "partner" of the United States. In such circumstances, it should be possible to arrive at some settlement of European problems—which really means the German problem—with the Russians in the context of some general withdrawal of troops and the institution of some new relationship between the Federal Republic of Germany, which would then be an actual part of some wider democratic entity, and the D.D.R. and the other Communist Eastern European States.

However, to achieve all this, three things are necessary: Britain must first join the E.E.C.; a political community of some kind must be formed; and the Americans must be a partner of it within the general framework of the Atlantic Alliance. If this is the long-term aim of the Government, which I sincerely hope—though I note that we have not been hearing very much from the Government lately on the subject of "partnership"—it hardly looks as if it has been revealed to our Soviet guest, who may conceivably, therefore, have gone home under some slight misapprehension. But we can, at least, derive some satisfaction from the fact that he was told that we could not agree to attend his proposed "Conference on European Security" unless it was also attended by the Americans, or words to that effect.

So, in putting my Question to the Government, I should be most grateful if they could enlighten us on the following points, which immediately flow out of it. First, do the Government still subscribe to the conception that an expanded and democratic E.E.C., which would include the United Kingdom, should in principle be a partner of the United States within the framework of the Atlantic Alliance? Secondly, do they believe that such a community can, in practice, best be built up by developing the present Brussels machinery, and as soon as possible employing similar techniques in the foreign political sphere, as well? And, lastly, is it their feeling that such a development, by enabling Western Europe over the years to stand on its own feet, is the surest way to arrive at some lessening of tension with the Eastern European Communist States, and eventually at some acceptable solution of the whole problem of the division of Germany?

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, I intend to detain your Lordships for only a short time. I think that I can agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said about the proper aims of this country. He described them, broadly speaking, as, first of all, that Britain should enter the Common Market; secondly, that we should then play our part in building up a united Europe; and thirdly, that all this should be done within the framework of the Atlantic Community. I agree with him on all these points. But he made rather a wide-ranging speech, and the point which seemed to me to be the important one, on which I want to say a word, is the danger of some misunderstanding arising from the rather indiscriminate and loose use of the words "Europe" and "Europeans".

When the Prime Minister speaks of "meaning business" about our going into Europe, he is clearly talking about our membership of the E.E.C., and I do not think there is any doubt on those occasions. But when he and other Government spokesmen talk about a wider unity in Europe, I take it that they mean the kind of unity which we can foresee; that is to say, a European Community widened to include such countries as the Scandinavian countries, Austria, Switzerland and perhaps Ireland. When the Prime Minister speaks in the communiqué about "Europe as a whole", I presume that he means something like Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals.

Of course, all of us would wish to see better relations across what used to be called the Iron Curtain, between Eastern and Western Europe, and particularly between Western Europe and the Soviet Union. We all wish to see an increase in contacts of every kind with Eastern Europe and with the Soviet Union, but I think it is most misleading to imply that there is the faintest practical possibility of any political or economic unity between Eastern and Western Europe under existing conditions; and in so far as some of the phraseology seemed to imply precisely this, I think it could have caused quite considerable concern to our friends and may have been to some extent misleading to the Soviet leaders.

Finally, I do not accept the view that if we join Europe and help in creating a stronger Western Europe we are thereby diminishing our chances of better relations and more contacts with Eastern Europe. In fact, I believe precisely the reverse. I think if they see a flourishing, stable, peaceful Western Europe, with Germany well embedded in it, these are the kind of conditions which are likely to lead to a very much greater contact and a better understanding between East and West.

4.31 p.m.


My Lords, I feel very much in sympathy, as I am sure do all Members of the Government, with the objectives stated by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and also by the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, who I was glad was able to intervene. We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, whose services to our own country and to the cause of Europe are so distinguished, for giving us once again the benefit of his views on Europe. Despite his disclaimer of any semantic aspirations, I cannot help feeling that he used the Prime Minister's Statement as something of a peg on which to hang a most interesting speech. I did not feel that that kind of cross-examination, which would perhaps have been suitable for delivery by a university don to an undergraduate, was necessarily the best way of clarifying the Prime Minister's meaning. Be that as it may, it gives me the opportunity, which I will venture to take, of setting out the authentic views of the Government. If I adhere rather closely to my notes I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, will realise that that is a tribute to the zeal which I am trying to show in answering his main points.

If I may deal in a few words with the particular questions which initiated our discussion, I should like to make it clear that when he was speaking of the contribution that Britain could make to the greater technological effectiveness of Europe and our wish to strengthen European unity, the Prime Minister was referring to the possibility of British entry into the European Economic Community. I should like to make that quite plain. When the Prime Minister explained that our objectives included the reduction of tension in Europe and progress towards a wider, fuller unity in Europe as a whole, he was referring, of course, to that wider Europe which has been so unhappily divided by the conflicting pressures and interests of its Eastern and Western parts. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, put three particular questions on points flowing from this central problem of what is meant by "Europe", and while I will not admit of any ambiguity in the words of the Prime Minister, I agree that I myself, and most other noble Lords, do occasionally use the word "Europe" in more senses than one. As I say, the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, put three particular questions on what is meant by "Europe", and he asked how we envisaged the future of our Continent and its relationships with the world at large. To the first question, whether the Government still subscribe to the conception that an expanded European Community, which would include the United Kingdom, should in principle be a partner of the United States within the framework of the Atlantic Alliance, I have no hesitation in returning the answer, Yes. So I hope the noble Lord will not accuse me, as occasionally he does, of lack of clarity or decisiveness or some similar virtue. I hope he will realise that this is as emphatic and affirmative an answer as I am capable of giving.

There can be no doubt whatever about our loyalty to the Atlantic Alliance. It is indeed our view, and it is clearly the view of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, who himself has rendered so much service to the Atlantic Community, that an expanded European Community, approaching or in some respects rivalling the United States in the size of its internal market, its population and level of technological achievement, would provide a surer foundation for that equal partnership between the great democratic States of the Atlantic Community and for the gradual breaking down of the divisions between Eastern and Western Europe which, in our view, must be the cornerstone of the more peaceful and united community of nations which we hope to build. So I am sure the noble Lord and the Government are entirely at one in regard to the first question.

The noble Lord's second question concerned the developing of the present Brussels machinery and using similar techniques in the foreign political sphere as well. I was surprised there that the question relates to the future development of a Community of which we do not at present form part. The Prime Minister has repeatedly explained that so long as we are not members of the Community it would not be appropriate for us to offer an opinion on what one might call the Community's "institutional" problems; such questions as majority voting, the power of the Commission, and "supra-nationality". We do not think that, standing at the moment, as we do, outside, it is appropriate for us to say how these things should be settled by those who are still inside. However, we have made it clear that if we do become members we should fully participate in discussions on these questions. That is really the essential answer to the noble Lord's second point. Indeed, as members of the Community we should wish to participate fully in every aspect of the Community's work and, of course, we should carry out loyally all the obligations we assumed.

During the discussions which the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have been engaged on, in the capitals of the E.E.C. countries, the structural aspect (if that is what the noble Lord had in mind) of European political co-operation has not featured at all and there has not been discussion of such proposals as those contained in the "Fouchet Plan". So that issue has not arisen up to now as between us and the Six. But we have made it plain that we attach importance to this whole question, and in particular that we should want to be associated in any discussions which might take place on this subject, and be associated right from the start.

The third question was one where again I found myself in full sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and also the noble Lord, Lord Harlech. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, raised the prospect of arriving at some lessening of tension in Europe, and eventually at some acceptable solution of the whole problem of the division of Germany. The sort of structure which we should favour in Western Europe would, in our view, help to maintain balance and security in the Continent as a whole. It would certainly not damage—and here I entirely agree with both noble Lords—the legitimate political or economic interests of Eastern Europe. Indeed, it would serve to provide for Eastern Europe an assurance of stability and of more prosperous markets.

I am not going to suggest that there is no other road to improved relations with the countries of Eastern Europe. We and other countries in Western Europe have succeeded in recent years in securing very important and valuable improvements in our relations with the Soviet Union and other countries of Eastern Europe, and it is our purpose to develop these relations further. We believe that in this way we can make a substantial contribution to the reduction of the tension, but—and I repeat this because the noble Lord said that we do not say these things often enough or clearly enough, and I hope I am saying it at any rate clearly enough and perhaps often enough now—the contribution which a more united Western Europe would make to the whole process would, we believe, be much greater than if we were not included in Western Europe. It would open up a wider and more hopeful prospect, not only of a détente but of a more fruitful East-West collaboration. It would enable us to look forward to the time—I am not putting any particular year on it—when the existing divisions and barriers in Europe would soften and the resources of the Continent as a whole might be employed for the general benefit of the people.

Finally, in his original Question the noble Lord was concerned with the political objective which the Prime Minister had in mind when he spoke of our approach to Europe in his Statement of February 13. I have said something about that in the course of my remarks, but our purpose is not confined to Europe. It is our belief that a united Western Europe can play a much greater role in the Councils of the world, and that the individual countries of Western Europe will speak with greater authority within a framework of economic and political unity. In other words, given this unity, Western Europe could make a much greater contribution than it has so far been able to do to the most challenging problems of our times, the conflicts of race, colour and ideology, the poverty and misery of the peoples of so many nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the divisions and wars which up till now we have not found the means to prevent or settle.

It was this vision of a more united Europe transcending divisions between East and West that the Prime Minister had in mind in speaking of our political objectives. He referred to a Western Europe which we should like to see, not only advancing in power and prosperity, but exercising an ever stronger and more beneficial influence on the affairs of Europe as a whole and on the world outside. It is, I believe, a concept which must commend itself to the great majority of the British people; I am sure it does to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, to the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, and, I hope, to every Member of your Lordships' House.