HL Deb 26 October 1967 vol 285 cc1782-6

3.56 p.m.


My Lords, with the permission of the House, I should like to repeat a Statement which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, about our application to join the Common Market, the three European Communities. The Statement is as follows:

"First, let me give a brief summary of developments since the debate in the House on May 8 to 10. As honourable Members will recall, we then applied to join the Communities in terms strictly in accordance with the appropriate articles in the Treaties dealing with new members. Since that date all the procedures laid down in the Treaties have been observed. Before the Summer Recess, and following the statement which I made at the W.E.U. Council on July 4, the Council of Ministers of the Six asked the Commission to prepare an opinion on our application. This the Commission did quickly and thoroughly; their report was presented to the Council of Ministers on the 30th September.

"The Commission's report—which deals also with the application of Denmark, Ireland and Norway—has now been published; and copies of the English version have been available for some days in the Library of the House.

"The report is an internal document of the Community and has not yet been fully debated by the Six Governments. But there are two important, points in the report to which I should like to draw attention. First, the conclusion that Britain's accession to the Community will strengthen it and afford it the opportunity for further progress. Second, the firm recommendation of the Commission that negotiations should begin. For, as they say, solutions can only be found in negotiations.

"As the House knows, this is our view, and it conforms with Community procedures as laid down in the Treaty. It is the view of the overwhelming majority of opinion throughout Europe. We want to join the Communities as they are, on equal terms with the other members. And we want, with our partners, to go from there and build with them on the foundations they have laid, so that together we achieve a more united, more powerful Europe. I am glad to think that our purposes in this are now clearly recognised.

"The Council of Ministers of the Community discussed, as members know, the Commission's opinion at length earlier this week. These discussions will continue on the 20th November. Meanwhile we in Britain should not rush to draw conclusions.

"We are confident that the procedures laid down in the Treaty will continue to be followed. The Treaty provides that the Member States and the Applicant States shall agree on the conditions of admission and the adjustments required. This means negotiations. We therefore continue to expect a reply from the Six as a whole that having received the Commission's Opinion on the point they are ready to open negotiations with us.

"The Luxembourg meeting demonstrated what a lot of support there is for this application in the Community. I should like to acknowledge the strong support we received from a number of countries. We are confident that in the further discussions which the Six are to have next month the utmost efforts will be made to obtain agreement that the Community should begin negotiations with us in accordance with the Treaty.

"As the House knows, we have had the pleasure of a visit these last three days from the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. This gave us a timely opportunity for a thorough discussion together on these issues. We were encouraged by the strong support which Chancellor Kiesinger and his Government continue to give us. I should like to remind the House of the statement which he made before he left London yesterday. 'The Federal Government is of the opinion that Great Britain should become a member of the European Communities. It will carefully examine the objections to British membership which have been raised within the Community of the Six. During the deliberations initiated among the Six the Federal Government will endeavour to help overcome the difficulties that have arisen and trusts that these deliberations will soon lead to the opening of negotiations with Great Britain'. "Her Majesty's Government will continue to press hard for negotiations. Our application is on the table. We for our part are ready to start negotiations now."


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for making this Statement, which most of your Lordships will have been glad to hear. The Statement makes only the briefest reference to the meeting of the Council of Ministers at the beginning of this week which decided to postpone further discussion until November 20, and the noble Lord expressed the hope that we should not rush to draw any conclusions about this. Whatever conclusions we may draw, I think there is one thing that we must never do and that is to turn our backs on Europe in a huff. It is quite possible that within the next two or three months the French Government may do and say many things which may be deliberately designed to provoke and to encourage hostility in Great Britain against the Common Market. We must not allow ourselves to fall into this trap, and we may have to be very patient, not so much for our own sakes as for the sake of humanity, whose highest interests we must hope that General de Gaulle will not continue to obstruct for ever. Meanwhile, we fully support the policy which is contained in the Statement.


My Lords, speaking on behalf of my noble friends on these Benches, I should like to congratulate the Government most sincerely on the strong effort which they are making to enter the European Economic Community, and indeed on the punctilious way in which they have duly fulfilled all the formalities required. In so doing they have, of course, a great majority of this House and of the country behind them, to say nothing of Europe, as I think the Foreign Secretary said in his Statement. In spite of the feverish propaganda of the present French Government, which, as we all know, for rather obscure political reasons is seizing on every possible excuse to refuse us admittance or at any rate to delay our entry, we on these Benches believe that the Government also have the support of a large section of the people of France. In these circumstances we must assume that negotiations will in the long run duly take place, and I am sure that the Government are not going to lose heart in any way.

I must say that we should have welcomed the Statement of the Foreign Secretary even more if he had been a little more explicit as regards the Government's intention, once they are in the Community, to abide by the terms of the Treaty of Rome as regards qualified majority voting, which is the whole point, and of their ultimate intention—and why not?—once they are in the Community, to work towards the formation of a real European Political Community employing the same techniques as those employed in the European Economic Community. I have no doubt that that is their intention, but if it is, we feel that it would be desirable for them to say so, thus demonstrating to our friends in Europe, whose support is so vital to us, our intention to form with them a real European entity and not to make do with what is usually referred to in Gaullist circles as a Europe of States.


My Lords, I shall not to-day be making a speech, but will defer it until the foreign affairs debate. May I ask my noble friend how much humiliation we have to face before we become a dignified nation? Should we not now withdraw our application and not be snubbed, as we have been this week and as we were in 1963? Can we not stop running about like scalded cats in Europe and seek our livelihood with the rest of the world in a dignified manner?


My Lords, I welcome the remarks of both the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and I admire their eloquence. I admire the eloquence of my noble friend Lord Blyton, although I do not welcome it. I think that he does not expect me to comment. I would only draw his attention to the words of the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, which were that we should not turn our backs in a huff and that we must show patience. I do not for one moment accept that we have taken other than a determined and dignified posture.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord what action the Government are taking at present to improve and develop our relations with EFTA, and how far it is possible for them to keep in touch with our EFTA colleagues throughout the whole of these negotiations and discussions with the Six?


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his remarks. He will be aware that we have been constantly in touch with EFTA and that our EFTA colleagues know at each stage exactly the policy Her Majesty's Government are following. I think that there is a great degree of mutual understanding in EFTA about the present situation.