HC Deb 04 April 1963 vol 675 cc62-70W
Q5. Mr. Stephen Swingler

asked the Prime Minister if the public statements made by the Lord Privy Seal concerning the resumption of negotiations for Great Britain's entry into the Common Market during an authorised interview published by the French newspaper, Le Monde, on 28th March represent the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Q6. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Prime Minister whether the public statements of the Lord Privy Seal, made during an authorised interview published by the French newspaper, Le Monde, on 28th March to the effect that discussions with the Six about Great Britain entry into the European Economic Community should continue, represent the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Q7. Mr. Harold Davies

asked the Prime Minister if the public statements made during an authorised interview by the Lord Privy Seal published in the French newspaper, Le Monde, on 28th March on the British Government's attitude towards the European Economic Community represent the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister,

pursuant to his reply [OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd April, 1963; Vol. 675, c. 245–7], circulated the following information:

Text of the Lord Privy Seal's interview with Opera Mundi

The interruption of the negotiations for Britain's entry into the Common Market seriously strained the relations of France with the other members of the Six as well as with Great Britain. There is full agreement however in all interested countries, including France, that Mr. Edward Heath who conducted the negotiations in the name of the British Government appears today increased in stature and deserves unanimous praise for the competence, good-faith and understanding with which he participated in the discussions.

Nearly two months have now elapsed since the break-up of the negotiations and the passionate reactions of the immediate aftermath had time to cool off somewhat. Everything has been said in London as well as on the Continent on the origins and responsibilities in the background of this event and it was not our intention to come back to this subject: in the interview that follows we explored with Mr. Heath mainly future prospects and the possible evolution of the relations between Great Britain and the Common Market.

Question—Can we assume as a preliminary postulate that the United Kingdom will maintain and will not withdraw her application for entry as a full member in E.E.C. as long as the Conservative party will be in power?

Mr. Heath: The formal position at the close of the 17th Meeting of the Brussels Conference was that the Member States of the Community were prevented from continuing negotiations. I said at that time that we would not turn our backs on Europe. Our desire has always been to join in the building of a wider Europe and this attitude will continue to govern our policy.

Question—There was one proposal at General de Gaulle's press conference on 14th January which came as a surprise to the other five, when he raised the idea that Britain might become an associate member and much later, according to his definition, a regular member. At first, neither Britain nor the Five were interested in such a solution, but today, two months after it was mentioned, would you be willing to consider that there is some way to be found in an associate membership which would not be by any means a permanent solution but an interim arrangement that could be an "ante-room" of sorts to a definite and complete entry of Great Britain, preferably after not too long a waiting period? Is there something to be investigated in that direction? Taking the situation as it stands today, would that not be a way to get out of the present complete stalemate?

Mr. Heath: The French Government has never discussed with us either in the course of the negotiations or since the break-up of the Community must decide for themselves. They have never explained what they meant by General de Gaulle's references to association in his Press conference. They have discussed it with a number of other countries and a considerable number of individuals, but they have never mentioned it to us. We applied for full membership of the Community under Article 237 because we wanted to play our full part in Europe both politically and economically. An association would not give us any opportunity of joining fully in the political developments in Europe. Nevertheless. I told the House of Commons when we debated the break-up of the negotiations that in certain circumstances we would consider a proposal for Association. These circumstances are: first, if a specific offer were to be made by the Six together; secondly, if it was in a form which did not involve any prolonged negotiation; and thirdly if it could be demonstrated that this was an offer made in good faith which was not later going to be vetoed on political grounds. In these circumstances we would, of course, consider any offer of an arrangement which might be made. Whether or not it would lead to full membership would, of course, depend upon the nature of the offer of association.

Question—Would you expect that the terms on which this interim associate-membership could be transformed into full membership should be spelled out right in the beginning? And if so, that it would be possible to do that without knowing the time limit and agreeing at least upon the general terms of the final arrangement? If both the time limit and the general terms of the final agreement would have to be known in advance, would this not entail the risk of having as long and as complicated negotiations as those that took place in 1961–62?

Mr. Heath: These questions themselves demonstrate some of the difficulties in trying to find a suitable arrangement of a kind such as association. Those who have been examining this problem in Europe have, I think, come more and more to the conclusion that if such an association is to include arrangements which will satisfy all the members of the Six as well as the United Kingdom, it would be necessary to have something which is, in fact, the equivalent of full membership.

Question—In your opinion, would the terms of a switchover into full membership have to be stated right away or could they be left in a vague form for further negotiations?

Mr. Heath: As the members of the Community have been prevented from completing the negotiations for full membership, it is difficult to imagine that they would be led to agree on offering the United Kingdom a definite date for full membership as part of an arrangement for association. It would therefore seem that that would have to be negotiated later.

Question—Would it be acceptable for Britain, in your opinion, if both date and terms were left in abeyance?

Mr. Heath: One cannot form a judgment on that without seeing what exactly is in the arrangement.

Question—But if the three conditions which you have set up both before the Commons and now are generally accepted, could you tell us what kind of interim arrangement would Britain favour, taking into consideration the fact that Mr. Hallstein and President Kennedy have recently agreed in Washington on the necessity of such an interim arrangement, it being always understood that full membership must be the final aim? Could you tell us what kind of interim association would be in the interest of Britain's future full membership? Would it be an association according to Article 238 of the Rome Treaty or a Customs Union, or a commercial arrangement between the United Kingdom and the Common Market, or even the E.F.T.A. and Common Market? Or would it be simply the kind of association which already exists between the United Kingdom and the Coal and Steel Community? What can you tell us about this?

Mr. Heath: I don't think I can give you a specific indication of what the nature of the arrangement ought to be. It is an academic matter unless one considers what is acceptable to the Six as well as to ourselves. This presents a very large number of problems.

Question—Would you consider that there could be a temporary arrangement which would work only for industrial goods leaving the whole agricultural problem, which presented most difficulties for the final membership, excluded completely? Something similar to the E.F.T.A. arrangement?

Mr. Heath: I cannot visualise a purely industrial customs union arrangement being acceptable to all the members of the Community. Therefore the question is academic.

Question—You cannot visualise an arrangement that would be limited to industrial goods only?

Mr. Heath: I can visualise such an arrangement but I cannot visualise that it will be acceptable to all the members of the Community. If we are going to deal with this present situation we must be realistic. As we have seen that full membership for the United Kingdom has been vetoed by one member of the Community, we have got to ask ourselves what sort of alternative arrangement will be acceptable, if any, and recognise that it will not be acceptable in any case unless it is always justifiable on economic grounds. I cannot believe that some members of the Community are prepared to see an arrangement which is applied only to industrial goods and does not consider any agricultural element.

Question—But can't you visualise an interim arrangement that would be almost the same as full membership except the political arrangement, and it would then be called an associate membership?

Mr. Heath: There is no indication at the moment that this would be acceptable to all members of the Six.

Question—After France's decision to suspend negotiations for Britain's entry, some of her partners have shown a certain reluctance to go ahead with decisions for which agreement in principle already existed. As you hope that Britain will be one day herself a member of E.E C., would you not be willing to state that it is in Britain's interest also if the Common Market machinery continues to run smoothly even while the United Kingdom is not a member?

Mr. Heath: These are internal matters of the Community policy which the members of the Community must decide for themselves. During the negotiations we went to great lengths not to slow up any of the development of the Community. Indeed the Community took many decisions earlier than it would otherwise have done because of the negotiations being carried on with Britain. This particularly applies to its overseas commercial relations. But it was quite apparent at the end of the negotiations that, as each of them in fact said, five countries of the Community as well as ourselves and the Commonwealth had suffered a very great shock in seeing the negotiations broken up as they were by the French Government. We have no desire to see the Community damaged: exactly the reverse.

Question—In the report just published by the Commission of the Common Market on the Brussels negotiation, there is one rather striking sentence: "The United Kingdom's application for entry meant for her the obligation to accept not only the Treaty but the important progress made since the Treaty has been signed, and it is on this progress that the discussion has sometimes been the most difficult". In view of the fact that such progress will continue during the coming years before Britain will become a full member, does this not mean that at that time it will be even more difficult for Britain to accept the progress of the Community, unless in the meantime she herself has adapted her economic structure, including agriculture, and including trade regulations and tariff levels, to those of the Common Market? What kind of measures of adaptation would you contemplate in order to meet these requirements?

Mr. Heath: As far as the progress of the Community is concerned, we accepted the very important steps which had already been taken under the Treaty of Rome. We accepted the reduction in the level of internal tariffs which would have been made at the moment of our entry. That means that if we had become members on the 1st of January, 1964, we would have accepted immediately a 60 per cent. reduction in all our tariffs with the countries of the Community. As far as the Economic Union provisions of the Treaty were concerned, we found no difficulties about the progress made here, except in one or two cases which could quite easily have been dealt with by administrative means. In the case of the common agricultural policy, we had accepted the policy for the Common Market period at the same time putting forward some proposals for supplementing this policy. When the negotiations were broken up, we were dealing with the question of the transitional arrangements by which we would have changed over the British system to the Community system. Moreover, on the question of the renegotiation of the association of overseas countries and territories under Part 4 of the Treaty of Rome we saw no difficulties about the new Convention. We therefore took the view in the negotiations that not only should we do nothing to slow up the progress of the Community but also that we should accept by far the greater part of the arrangements which have been made under the Treaty of Rome. Of course, if Community policy differs more and more from that of our own and the other E.F.T.A. countries, it will become more and more difficult to find solutions should there be further negotiations. The objectives of the Community and the E.F.T.A. countries should therefore be not only to do nothing which will damage each other's interests but also to avoid moving further apart wherever possible. This requires constant consultation and the willingness on both sides to take the necessary measures to ensure this result.

Question—You mean consultation with the Six?

Mr. Heath: Constant consultation between the Six and ourselves.

Question—And does it also mean that the British Government contemplates internal economic measures in order to be ready on the very day when Britain will at last be the full member she is entitled to be?

Mr. Heath: We shall do our best to carry out the policies which I have just outlined. At the same time you cannot expect us, where particular national interests are at stake, to make changes in our policies which may place an undue burden upon our economy without having the economic advantages which come from being a member of a large community.

Question—But aren't there certain changes that are more or less being planned for other reasons? There was some discussion that the agricultural subsidies policy may perhaps be changed? And this would be in a certain sense an adaptation to a final change?

Mr. Heath: Where policies are being adjusted for other reasons, that, of course, is a different position. The Minister of Agriculture has already announced that in the case of agricultural policies he will want to examine them to see whether adaptations are now desirable.

Question—May we now examine some political aspects of the matter. Today it is obvious that there were not only economic reasons but also, and to a large extent, political ones to General de Gaulle's decision. Is it not surprising that during 18 months of economic negotiations there was no real attempt made either by Britain or by France—the two European nuclear powers—to agree upon a common policy in matters of defence and nuclear strategy, while it was clear that Britain, once admitted, would automatically have become a member of the planned Political Organisation of the Community?

Mr. Heath: On April 10 last in the Western European Union ministerial meeting in London I made a very full and clear declaration of what our views were about the political developments in Europe. That was then published as a White Paper and I think it takes up some eight pages. This included the view that as political arrangements in Europe developed, a common view about defence policy would emerge. When I made this statement in the Western European Union it was welcomed by the ministers present and there was no indication then that these views were not acceptable.

Question—But don't you think that in view of the obvious differences in strategic and nuclear conceptions between France and Britain, especially towards N.A.T.O. and the United State's, the two countries should not have relied simply upon their mutual willingness to co-ordinate these policies once Britain became a member of E.E.C.? Would it not have been preferable to explore in advance whether and how such a co-ordination could actually take place? In fact, how would it have been possible to reconcile divergent policies inside the same political Union?

Mr. Heath: We find that the greater part of N.A.T.O. and the greater part of Europe accept our views, which are that Europe should be an equal partner with the United States in the N.A.T.O. alliance. In so far as these views are shared, it would not have been difficult to reach harmony But if the alternative view is that Europe should become a third force moving mare and more away from the western alliance and from partnership with the United States, then of course there is a direct conflict of views about the part which Europe should play in the defence of the West.

Question—Are you sure that General de Gaulle's aim is really to build up what you call a third force in Europe? As far as we know, he has, never given such formulation to his views and he always came out in favour of the broad purposes of the Atlantic alliance, even though, he had suggested changes in the organisation.

Mr. Heath: We are not clear about his position, but we are quite clear about our position.

Question—It is true that the Five share your views on Atlantic strategy. However, since the sixth member, France, is like Britain a nuclear Power, don't you think that the coordination of their defence policies is at least as important as the agreement of the other Five with Britain and the co-ordination of their defence policy with France?

Mr. Heath: Would you care to develop your idea?

Question—According to certain interpretations of de Gaulle's statement during, his Press conference, France's position could be explained by a certain apprehension that England's entry might be the preamble for dragging the European community into a larger Atlantic community in which it would be eventually dissolved. In such circles, Britain was described as a possible "Trojan horse" that would prepare "Anglo-Saxon" economic hegemony over Europe. Even the American Trade Expansion Act was met by such circles with a certain suspicion as being a possible weapon in such a "grand design". What is your reaction towards this?

Mr. Heath: There is a misunderstanding here which can be attributed to using the same word—community—in two different senses. The European Community is a structural organisation based on the Treaty of Rome with the appropriate institutions described in the Treaty. When people speak of the Atlantic Community, they are not thinking of a structural organisation created in a similar way but of what is really a partnership of countries working together on the two sides of the Atlantic. We believe that this partnership works best when each side of the Atlantic is of equal strength and status. Our object in negotiating with the Community was to see whether it was possible to strengthen the Community by enlarging it. In fact Europe can only be strong enough to be an equal partner with the United States if it contains Britain and the other two or three smaller countries who wished to join it as full members. If it had been possible to create an enlarged Community there would have been a much greater chance of the partnership being an equally balanced one. It was not our purpose that countries outside of Europe should join the Community, which must grow and develop as an organisation in its own right. We believe that the proposed negotiations in the Kennedy plan for the reduction of tariffs between the two sides of the Atlantic should be carried out to enable trade to be increased amongst the industrialised countries of the western world. This is not in order to weaken the Community but to allow both the Community and the United States each to become economically stronger as partners in the Western Alliance.

Question—There are people on the Continent, especially in France, who say that it may be wise to wait until the results of the 1964 general elections in the United Kingdom are known before making a decision concerning her entry. Proceeding in such a manner, once it will be known who will be in power, it will become clear also whether such a party is a real supporter of the entry or not. During a recent radio and TV interview in Germany, M. Spaak spoke on the following lines: "Nous ne ferons rien d'essentiel avant les élections anglaises, sauf peut-être garder un contact politique avec la Grand-Bretagne et faire en sorte que, du point de vue économique, la politique que la Grande-Bretagne et la Communauté vent devoir faire ne s'éloigne pas trop l'une de l'autre et ce afin de ménager et de garder toutes les chances pour l'avenir". What would you care to say on this especially as regards M. Spaak's reference to the British general elections?

Mr. Heath: General elections in Britain are an internal matter. If one joins the Community one does so in order to make it a living organisation. Therefore the members must accept changes of government in each other's countries when they come together with the results of them.

Question—However everybody knows that the Labour Party is not in favour of Britain's entry or would want to set up conditions which would render such an entry impossible?

Mr. Heath: But if Parliament were to ratify the Treaty of Rome, together with any arrangements made during negotiations, it would not be in accordance with our constitutional custom for the Labour Party to repeal them.

Question—How optimistic are you as regards the future?

Mr. Heath: The future in Britain's relations with the European Economic Community does not rest with Britain alone.

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