Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Speech made to the Assembly

Monday, 23 January 1967

Mr. President, I am honoured to have been invited by you to address this Assembly this afternoon. I am particularly happy that this should take place under your Presidency, for your election not only gave pleasure to all your friends in the British House of Commons, but it held out hopes which have been abundantly realised that, in you, Britain was contributing a great European to the service of Europe for this period. Equally, we knew that the voice of Europe would never be silent in the British House of Commons.

My mind goes back over seven years to the last time when one of our colleagues presided with such distinction over this Assembly, my very close friend – and a friend of so many here – the late John Edwards, whose tragic and untimely death took place here in Strasbourg. In all those years, John lived close to me, as he was close to me. We used to go to the House each morning in my car and return together, usually late at night. And well I remember how often he spoke of the great tides sweeping to and fro here in this Assembly, and of his great vision of the Europe that was to be, the Europe in which we all know he would have played a great and historic role.

This Assembly, and all the other manifold activities which have come to fruition under the Council of Europe, represent unity in diversity: a unity of purpose and vision made the more real by the diversity from which it is being created. For the unity of Europe, so far from being in conflict with the fact of diversity, is indeed enriched by the diverse contributions which so many countries – with their widely differing gifts of geography, of history and of culture – can contribute.

“Who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.”

We who are citizens of this great continent have the right to take pride in the part we have played in history, not least in the creation of great – and themselves diverse – nations beyond the seas. And if, in a rapidly shrinking world, the great challenge we now face is that of coming to terms with the thrusting urgency of new, populous, hungry nations, on a basis no longer so much of what we can take from them

as of what we can give to them, there is nothing inward-looking or complacent in drawing on the richness of our own past here in Europe. And we can put forth, in all the massive strength of which we are collectively capable, the effort we should make, and must make, on behalf of the new nations in Asia and Africa and Latin America – an effort that will call for really massive strength – we can do this only if our Europe itself is united and strong.

Nor again, can those nations here represented, with all the unexampled contribution we have it in our power to make to the achievement of peace, make that contribution unless we can achieve a greater unity of purpose. A unity of purpose which must be directed not only to the solution of our own problems in Europe – of that wider Europe whose true boundaries transcend the man-made divisions deepened by two world wars – but which year by year constitute the pattern of international discussion at the United Nations.

It has been wisely said that no statesman can hope to approach the problems, whether of his own country or of international affairs, unless he is endowed with a rich even an imaginative sense of history. Certainly, no one can accept the privilege which has been granted to me here today without a deep and, at the same time, moving realisation of the history of the thousands of strands and threads of gold and silk and homespun wool, which have combined to weave this rich European tapestry of ours.

We live still in an age of nation States. Against a backcloth of history, the concept of nationhood for each one of us is unbelievably recent: a racial concept for any one of our peoples is nonexistent, or the product of a psychopath’s nightmare.

A week ago a distinguished anthropologist announced discoveries suggesting that man – if not quite as we know him now – is 20 million years old. Two thousand years ago – the last one ten thousandth of that time, less than half a second of man’s hour of history – the British people were already indistinguishably created from the colonisation of a score of areas represented here today. A thousand years ago, the name England itself reflected the community of invaders and settlers – the Angles and the Saxons commingling with the Danes and our older Celts, with their diversified European origin. And if democracy as we have come to know it in Britain began to stir in those village communities on the basis of the forms which had been brought to us by the seamen farmers of Europe, the institutions which gave form and substance to that democracy were created through the superimposition of Norman French laws and forms of law, brought to England 900 years ago by men from France, themselves of Scandinavian origin.

So, too, the great democracies across the Atlantic were themselves created by European colonists and settlers, by the emigration of those who, in earlier years, fled from Europe in search of the religious freedom they held dear, and, in later years, by those who turned their backs on tyranny or starvation – the United States itself is a creation based on European diversity – its laws, its culture, its civilisation, breathing a hundred forms of European inspiration. Indeed, at a recent Anglo-American function in memory of Sir Winston Churchill, I found myself reminding our American friends that not only was their system of government built on British foundations, using ideas from France and other parts of Europe – but their Constitution itself is based on a tripartite division of authority, derived from Montesquieu’s Séparation des Pouvoirs, thus creating a constitutional system which every American schoolboy is taught to revere – and which when they grow up they continue to revere with varying degrees of enthusiasm – but, also, that it was a system which, as a matter of history, must be regarded as based on a Frenchman’s misreading of British constitutional practice in the 18th century.

I referred just now to Sir Winston Churchill, than whom there has never been a more patriotic Englishman. Yet it was he who, in the days of darkest hunger in 1940, had the vision to propose ta beleaguered France an indestructible Act of Union between our two countries. It was the same vision which impelled him and so many of all parties from Britain and from every other country represented here today to propose the initiatives which led to the Council of Europe; and to me the historical significance of the Council of Europe, and the wider European movement of which it is one manifestation, is this. Feet planted firmly in the realities created by the last century and a half of European history, heart and head occupied with the realities and needs of this present century in which we live, eyes fixed unwaveringly on the coming century in which our children and grandchildren will live – this is the posture in which we are working.

For if the 19th century, the age of nationalism, was illuminated by the heroism which created the great nation States, the 20th century, equally, will go down to history as the age in which men had the vision to create, out of those nation States, out of the destruction of two world wars arising from the conflicts of European nationalism, a new unity based on cool heads and warm hearts. And a unity the greater and more real because it builds on – and does not reject – the diversity of the nation States whose national traits and characteristics will become stronger and more fruitful by being merged in a wider, outward-looking unity.

Just as, in a wider sense, if the last century and a half was the age of empire when French and Dutch, Portuguese and British, and others, who had gone from the long crenellated coastline of our maritime Europe – were followed by traders, soldiers, administrators, teachers and missionaries – this age of empire has now yielded place to a new age and to a new concept. Not the “ retreat from imperialism ”, not “decolonisation” – these phrases accentuate the negative in what is being achieved. Rather must we see it as an age of enfranchisement, of development, of co-operation, as one colonial Power after another has handed over responsibility, the responsibility of government, to their once subject peoples and, while surrendering power, has forged a new association which, in the greater part of the newly enfranchised world, has invoked a quality of friendship which the colonising nation could never know.

So it is in the Commonwealth, a Commonwealth of equals. So it is in the continuing association of France and our other neighbours with those whom they once ruled. So it is in the work of this Council, of the European Economic Community, and of OECD: that through international co-operation and bilateral effort and sacrifice we in Europe have extroverted our economy and our industry to meet the needs of a developing world.

But, as I have said, this effort can never achieve its full purpose, whether in terms of development or of peace, unless we learn the way to build up, through a more real unity, our common economy and our mutual political strength. For economic strength and political unity must develop together. And, just as we are all dedicated to the proposition that economic strength should be developed in an outward looking sense, so, equally, every one of us is resolved that the political objective is not only to end the series of conflicts which have torn Europe apart twice in this century, hut to create first a dialogue and then a real and living peace with our neighbours to the East, and, even more widely, to strengthen the voice of each one of us in the councils of the world.

It was in this spirit that the European Economic Community was created. My own party, in a statement endorsed by an overwhelming majority at our party conference in 1962 said:

“The Labour Party regards the European Community as a great and imaginative conception. It believes that the coming together of the six nations which have in the past so often been torn by war and economic rivalry is, in the context of Western Europe, a step of great significance.”

For where there has been controversy in Britain, this has not been on the historic achievement which the creation of this Community represents, nor on the hopes it holds out for a Europe free from threat of war – the controversy has been on the question whether and on what terms it would be right for Britain herself to seek entry to this Community.

Ten weeks ago I announced in Parliament that the British Government had conducted a deep and searching review of the whole problem of Britain’s relations with EEC, including our membership of EFTA and of the Commonwealth. Every aspect of the Treaty of Rome itself, of decisions taken subsequent to the signature of the Treaty, and all the implications and consequences which might be expected to flow from British entry, had been examined in depth. In the light of this review, I said that the Government had decided that a new high-level approach must now be made to see whether the conditions existed – or did not exist – for fruitful negotiations, and the basis on which such negotiations could take place.

I said to the House of Commons:

“I want the House, the country and our friends abroad to know that the Government are approaching the discussions I have foreshadowed with the clear intention and determination to enter the European Economic Community if, as we hope, our essential British and Commonwealth interests can be safeguarded. We mean business.”

That, Mr. President, is our position. We mean business.

And I am going to say why we mean business. We mean business because we believe that British entry and the involvement of other EFTA countries, whether by entry or association, will of themselves contribute massively to the economic unity and strength of Europe. What is today a market of about 180 million becomes a potential market of nearly 280 million, the biggest among all the industrially advanced countries, west or east. Not only consumers, but producers, too. The adherence of most or all of the EFTA countries would bring to the existing Communities not only a wider market, but also the skill, the expertise, the science and technology of millions of workers and thousands upon thousands trained in the highest refinements of modern technology.

We mean business, again, because the interests of Europe as a whole – wider Europe no less than those of Western, Northern and Southern Europe – will be served, as equally our own separate interests will be served, by creating a greater and more powerful economic community. I have always made it clear that, in my view, the concept of a powerful Atlantic partnership can be realised only when Europe is able to put forth her full economic strength so that we can, in industrial affairs, speak from strength to our Atlantic partners. Let no one here doubt Britain’s loyalty to NATO and the Atlantic Alliance. But I have also always said that that loyalty never means subservience. Still less must it mean an industrial helotry under which we in Europe produce only the conventional apparatus of a modern economy, while becoming increasingly dependent on American business for the sophisticated apparatus which will call the industrial tune in the ’70s and ’80s.

We mean business in a political sense, because over the next year, the next ten years, the next twenty years, the unity of Europe is going to be forged and geography, history, interest and sentiment alike demand that we play our part in forging it – and working it.

There may be those who believe that to widen the Community will be to weaken it, or to dilute its existing sense of purpose and its institutions. Change there will be, as there has been throughout these ten years. For he who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery. We within Europe will play our full part in generating change, whatever that may mean for vested interests or for the protectionist- minded, whether in Britain or elsewhere. It will be not on stagnation, but on movement, continual movement, that the momentum created in post war Europe can continue, and, indeed, accelerate. Widening, therefore, based on change will mean not weakening but strengthening.

I have said that Britain will gain if the right conditions can be established for a decisive and urgent move forward. But, equally, let no one here underestimate what Britain can also contribute. We shall be bringing, not only to the council chamber but to the power house of Europe, a new, more determined Britain, a Britain whose answer to the sick gibes of some commentators is being given not in words, but in deeds.

I give you the facts. In 1964, when Britain’s new Government took over responsibility, we were running a deficit at an annual rate of about £ 800 million. In 1965, this was cut below £ 320 million. Last year, despite the momentary setback of the strike in our shipping industry, which the Government stood up to, despite the wave of monetary panic in the markets of the world, the deficit was cut again. This year, it will be eliminated and we intend to move steadily into surplus.

It has been achieved because we have had a Government not afraid to take unpopular decisions, and a people ready to accept those decisions; because we have given national priority to exports and our business have accepted that priority; because we have put investment and modernisation ahead of easy living, and our people know it is right; because we are changing the face and structure of British industry, attacking restrictive practices on both sides of industry as industry itself – jolted into a new sense of cost consciousness and cost of effectiveness – cuts out the dead wood which in too many of our board rooms has been the consequence of an inheritance from an effete industrial dynasticism, and in our labour practices an inheritance from a past generation of underemployment.

I have referred to the balance of payments. I do not apologise for giving one more set of figures – the balance of trade on which all else depends. Over the last half century Britain has only rarely balanced her trade. We have relied on the gains from our invisible exports – another area of expertise where we can contribute to the greater welfare of Europe. But on direct trade, in 1964 our monthly export/import deficit was £ 45 million. In 1965, that monthly deficit was cut to £ 23 million. In 1966, it was halved again to £ 12 million and in the last three months of 1966, as the measures we took last year bit more deeply into the problem, we had a surplus more than twice as big as in any previous quarter since the war, indeed probably more than twice as big as in the lifetime of most of us.

Besides an economy growing in strength, we bring all that British technology has to offer. Let us not be defeatist about Europe’s technological contribution compared with that of the United States. Each European country can speak for itself. But what would the American industrial economy look like today without jet aircraft, directly based on a British invention, freely made available as part of our joint war effort; antibiotics – similarly made over; the electronic revolution based on the British development of radar; indeed, the entire nuclear superstructure which could never have been created except on the basic research of Rutherford and other British scientists?

All right, this is blowing trumpets, and why not? What’s wrong with too many of us in Europe is that we seem to have lost that art; that our salesmanship and public relations have not kept pace with our technological achievements. But equally, in referring to American dependence on the European discoveries of a generation ago, there is no question of living in the past. I am taking American industry today in relation to the European achievements of yesterday which have made it possible. And what we have to see is that the European industry of tomorrow does not become dependent on an outside technology, with all that can mean in terms of industrial power and independence.

I give one example only. In the past two years, the British Government – as a matter of policy – have saved the British computer industry and safeguarded its independence. For computer technology holds the key to the future. This approach – and not only for computers – must now be applied on a European scale.

These, Mr. President, are some of the reasons why we mean business.

Now, at the outset of the tour which the Foreign Secretary and I are making of the capital cities of the Six, we are fairly asked: where do we stand on the Treaty of Rome? In my announcement of the Government’s intention to Parliament on November 10th, I said that we would be prepared to accept the Treaty of Rome subject to the necessary adjustments consequent upon accession of a new Member, and provided that we received satisfaction on the points about which we see difficulty.

What I had in mind in saying this was that the Treaty itself provides, in Article 237, that the conditions of admission and the adjustments to the Treaty necessitated by it should be the subject of an agreement between the existing member States and the new applicant. Clearly, there have got to be – and this is envisaged – adjustments to the Treaty to cover such questions as British membership of the institutions, with appropriate representation; provision for an appropriate number of British votes in the Council of Ministers; and no doubt other changes such as this which will be necessary in the percentage contributions to the Community budget and funds.

We shall be discussing the various difficulties which we should see in accepting without reservation a number of the policies which have been worked out by the Community over the years. It is clear, also, that such questions as the timetable on which we should be applying various provisions of the Treaty, is, of course, different from that laid down in the Treaty because of the lapse of time since the Treaty was signed.

But provided that the problems that we see can be dealt with satisfactorily, either through adaptations of the arrangements made under the Treaty, or in any other acceptable manner, then the Treaty itself would not be an obstacle; and those rules to which we set our name and seal – those rules we will observe.

Of course, the Treaty of Rome has difficulties for us, as it had difficulties for every one of the original signatories. But we have this advantage, that in the ten years since the Treaty was signed it has been possible for us to study not only the text, but also the way in which it is operating, what we might call the common law as well as the statute law, and we are encouraged by the results of our study.

It is still too early in our tour to draw conclusions from our discussions. At the end of the day, it will be for the British Government to decide, in the light of the best appreciation we can make of the problems that will lie ahead, and the hopes of overcoming them, whether it will be right for us to enter into definitive negociations for entry. If this is our decision, I hope the negotiations will be on a minimum number of broad issues and not on an infinity of details. Many of the details, many of the consequential decisions – important though they be – can best be settled on a continuing basis from within the Community. Nor can the ultimate decision be based on a computerised analysis of finely balanced economic considerations. Wordsworth once wrote:

“High heaven rejects the lore Of nicely calculated less or more”.

I am not suggesting that Britain’s representatives in any future negotiations will be poets rather than hard-bitten politicians, economists and administrators, but with such vast issues at stake for the future of Britain, for the future of all our countries, and of Europe it will be a tragedy and a reproach if this historic initiative is compelled to flounder in a mass of detail. We must maintain the momentum.

This is not to say that there will not be major problems of extreme difficulty. I am not going to outline them now. Rather is this a matter for detailed and confidential discussion with the Heads of Government whom we are meeting these few weeks. But I should be less than frank if I did not at least refer to the problems created particularly by the financial aspects of the Comunity’s agricultural policy, by arrangements made, and appropriately made to secure fairness and equity between the agricultural interests of the six countries concerned, but arrangements which do not reflect – indeed clearly, they could not reflect – the problem created by the entry of a major food-importing nation such as Britain. For they would mean a financial contribution which would fundamentally affect not only the balance so painfully worked out over the past few years but also the balance of equity, as well as the balance of payments, between Britain and other countries who would seek to join – and the existing Six.

To outline this question, and to be aware of others, is not designed to evoke any spirit of depression, still less of defeatism. These problems are there to be overcome. I believe that they can be overcome, given the same spirit of constructive ingenuity, tolerance, understanding and give and take which have animated the relations of the six Members in their dealings with one another from the outset. For their solution is necessary not only for all of us here, but for what we can all achieve in removing tension and creating a wider unity – that wider unity of which you, Mr. President, spoke a few minutes ago – embracing all Europe, East and West, and, looking outwards still more widely, for what we can contribute to world development, to the only war we seek, the war on want and hunger, for what we can all contribute in our own distinctive way to solving the problems of racial tension which more and more are embittering relations between nation and nation, between man and man.

I believe still more strongly that they can be overcome if all of us, while treading our way through the complicated economic and political issues involved, can keep our eyes firmly fixed on the vision that we have proclaimed.

I believe that, given that understanding, that spirit of give and take, the creation of the right conditions, the task on which we have embarked will enable us to carry the good will and support of the vast majority of all of our peoples. And, above all, the good will and support of the young people of Britain and of the other countries represented here today.

Those of us who are entrusted with the responsibilities of government have the challenging duty – and it is an exciting one – of leading an impatient generation. It is a generation impatient of the mumblings and bumblings and fumblings of what has too often passed for statesmanship. And it will – this generation – as history will – for this new generation will write the next chapters in that history – it will condemn beyond any power of ours to defend or excuse the failure to seize what so many of us can clearly see is now a swirling, urgent tide in man’s affairs. If we do fail – I want this to be understood – the fault will not lie at Britain’s door. But the cost, and, above all, the cost of missed opportunities, will fall, and in increasing measure, on every one of us.

I began by referring to the central themes of European history a century ago and now. In the last century, the creation of the nation States of Europe called on the citizens of those nations to sacrifice their lives. In this century, the future of Europe, and the world, has twice required a generation of men to give their lives in the defence of freedom. The Europe of today, the Europe it is in our power to fashion, with all that this means for a wider world, calls for no such heroic sacrifices. The sacrifices which are asked of this generation are sacrifices only of supposed short-term interests, of short-term prejudices and stereotyped modes of thought. I believe that this generation has decided on its answer.

Mr. President, I thank you.


Mr. Prime Minister, thank you. There are eight of my colleagues in the Assembly who have told me they want to put questions to the Prime Minister. I shall call them in an order which will take account of the language which they will use, of their nationality, and also of their seniority in our Assembly. I call, first, the Senior Vice-President of the Assembly, and I shall then call Sir Alec Douglas-Home.

I call Senator Montini.

Mr. MONTINI (Italy) (translation)

Mr. President, as a senior member and first Vice­ President of our Assembly, I would like to thank the British Prime Minister, Mr. Wilson, for having come to our Assembly to give us his Government's point of view on a problem which is of the greatest interest to the Council of Europe, namely, the place and role of Great Britain in the context of European integration.

I would like to take this opportunity, Mr. President, of wishing Mr. Wilson every success in his undertaking and on his tour of Europe. Although Mr. Wilson dealt with this question in his speech, I would nevertheless like to ask him whether Great Britain is in favour of development at political, indeed at institutional and political level, which might lead to a new and more substantial integration, reaching beyond the present predominantly economic and executive functions of existing bodies, including those of the States of the Economic Community.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Mr Wilson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

I should like to thank the Vice-President, Senator Montini, for what he has said and for his good wishes.

In answer to his question, as I have made clear in what I have said, we envisage the future development of Britain's relations with and within Europe as being not only economic, not only confined within the existing Community, but political as well.

As to the development of institutions and the relationships between Members of the enlarged Community, this is a matter which I am having the privilege of discussing with the Governments on the tour which I have described. These matters were discussed, as the Senator will be aware, very profitably and helpfully in Rome last week.

It will be our intention to work in the letter and in the spirit in institutions which may be developed by agreement among the Members of the Community, including ourselves. Until we do become Members, it would perhaps be wrong for me or my colleagues in Britain to express any opinions about arguments which are or have been currently going on between Members of the Six themselves. If we are in, we shall play our full part in these problems.

Sir Alec DOUGLAS-HOME (United Kingdom)

I often question the Prime Minister, but seldom when I am overseas! I wonder whether he will permit me today to make it clear that the Conservative members of the United Kingdom delegation to this Assembly fully support the initiative which he is taking, and that, therefore, the movement for British entry into the European Community may now be seen against the background of broad national unity in Britain. In particular, I wish him success in the important discussions which he is about to undertake in Paris.

Mr Wilson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

I should like to thank Sir Alec Douglas-Home for what he has said, and to confirm completely what he said on the question of the initiative announced in the House of Commons by Her Majesty's Government, which did at that time receive, and has subsequently received, the full support of the main political parties in our House of Commons. I also thank him for the good wishes he has expressed for our continuing tour.

Mr. RADIUS (France) (translation)

Mr. President, the Prime Minister mentioned just now the problem Britain's accession would cause because she is a large importer of foodstuffs. And he referred twice to the statement he made ten weeks ago, on 10th November last year, in which he stressed the vital interests of Britain and the Commonwealth.

On 4th May he was a little more precise. In a reply to the Leader of the Liberal Party he said that the agricultural policy of the Community would mean a levy of 65-70 % on imports of cereals from the Commonwealth. The Government quite definitely could not accept that, but if the agricultural policy were altered to make the terms more acceptable, the position would be different.

In view of that statement, I would like to ask the Prime Minister the following question: does he still feel the same today, and does he regard some alteration in the common agricultural policy, to decrease the levy on imported cereals, as vital to the interests of Britain and the Commonwealth?

Mr Wilson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

This is a matter of great importance and of considerable complexity, which I might feel, as we all might, could perhaps more profitably be discussed tomorrow than today.

It is indeed a problem which has already led to quite fruitful discussions in Rome, as I am sure it will in Paris, Brussels, The Hague, Bonn and Luxembourg.

I have on a number of occasions, when questioned about this problem of the levies, stated that if we look ahead to 1969, 1970 and beyond, it is difficult to make any precise calculation either as to the effect on Britain's balance of payments or the cost of the levy, or, indeed, as to the size of the levy, because I have not met an agriculturist· who is certain whether world prices may not rise during that period; nor, I suggest, is there finality about what the Community prices may be in those years. These are matters, I understand, which are left for further discussion.

This is a very important problem for us and a very important problem for the Community, and particularly for more than one country which is a major food importer rather than one concerned with food exports.

In my speech a few minutes ago, I stressed particularly the problems of the financial regulations with regard to this disposal of the money taken in by Government under those levies. The adherence of a majority food importer would, of course, throw out of balance all the figuras which have been worked out during the past two years – not, I gather, without considerable difficulty and discussion and very late sitting and, of course, would increase beyond the present target figure the total amount of money required for the Special Fund.

Therefore, these matters would be necessarily, as is envisaged by the terms of the Treaty itself, a matter for adjustment on the entry of a new Member. I hope that, in these adjustments, we would be able to solve these problems to our mutual advantage.

I would say to our friend -who is more than a friend, because in a very special political sense he is our host as parliamentary representative of the city in which we are meeting – that a very deep and close study such as I am sure he has made of the whole problem of cereals movements might suggest that some change in prices might be very beneficial to his own country and perhaps his own constituency and might lead to closer and warmer trade between Britain and France. These problems are not necessarily capable of solution or interpretation only in one direction.

Mr. STRUYE (Belgium) (translation)

Mr. President, I must ask the Prime Minister to excuse me if my questions are lacking in discretion, but he knows Members of Parliament are always inquisitive and sometimes indiscreet. This is my first question: does the Prime Minister consider that the difficulties he may meet with in his approaches -which we all hope will succeed – are more likely to be economic or political?

My second question follows on from the one put by Mr. Radius and concerns agricultural policy. Af ter many difficulties, the Six succeeded in laying down the broad lines of a common agricultural policy. The Prime Minister has told us about Britain's difficulties and we all know what they are. Does he think these difficulties could be overcome simply by very broad transitional measures and progressive adaptation, which would not involve any modification of the principles already adopted by the Six?

Here is my third question: the Six met with great difficulties on the subject of the qualified majority in Luxembourg, almost exactly a year ago, and overcame them. Without altering the Rome Treaty, they succeeded in reaching a sort of gentlemen's agreement on a pragmatic basis whereby in practice the qualified majority would be hedged about with arrangements and guarantees which would render it more acceptable to the various countries. Could the Prime Minister tell us whether this might help Britain to accept what has already been agreed on the subject of the qualified majority?

Fourth question: a great deal has been said about the former Fouchet-Cattani Plan. Does the Prime Minister think that during the months ahead this Plan might be the basis of a fresh effort to launch the beginnings of a political union in Europe, and would Britain be prepared to be associated with such endeavour?

Finally, my very last question: I think we all believe – we have said so a thousand times in this Assembly – that the Europe of tomorrow is inconceivable without Britain as a full Member, for she is an integral part of Europe. But if, by some mischance, that does not come about during the months to come, would the Prime Minister consider as a substitute, in accordance with the other article at the end of the Treaty, a Treaty of Association which might be the first step towards future membership?

Mr Wilson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

I will deal with those five questions briefly. The first was to ask me whether I thought that the difficulties about

Britain's entry were, principally, economic or political. If Mr. Struye is referring to the difficulties on our side, I said that there are certain problems on the economic side. I see no political problems about entry. If, of course, he is asking me to forecast what difficulties might arise on the side of the Six, this matter should perhaps be lef t for a few weeks, while these explorations continue – or perhaps it is a question on which he and his country might be able to give a more accurate forecast than I would feel right in trying to do now.

The second question related to agriculture. He asked me whether I feel that the agricultural problems will require merely a period of time – transitionary arrangements – or whether more fundamental changes would have to be made in the rules. We are discussing this already, as we continue our tour. So far, we have discussed it only in one capital, Rome. The Foreign Secretary and I were more than a little encouraged in our talks there to feel that some of the difficulties which have been foreseen in agriculture might not be so great as we thought, although, of course, there are problems arising out of the financial regulations, as I said, which, in any case, would require consequential amendment on the entry of any new Member. The existing ones would have to be changed in so far as they are on a percentage basis, if the number of participants increases.

I do not believe that those problems are insoluble. I believe that they are difficult and that, given the right good will, we can solve them.

The third question was about the qualified majority and the discussions at Luxembourg. We have followed with the greatest interest the discussions in the Six over these problems during the past year or two. We felt that it would have been wrong for the British Government or the British Parliament to intervene while the discussions were going on, because we were not directly concerned. I can imagine that we would have been invited to mind our own business if we had expressed opinions on one side or the other in these discussions.

If we become a Member, we shall, of course, play our part in any future discussions. If we become a Member, at the point that we do we will carry out the agreements reached by those who founded the Community and have been working it since that time.

Perhaps, if I might express a further opinion here, I said during my earlier speech that we have been concerned in our studies not only to look at the wording of the Treaty, but also at the way in which the Treaty has been working in practical terms. I said that we have been encouraged by that. I would not exclude from the area which has given encouragement the discussions, and the outcome of those discussions, which took place at Luxembourg.

The fourth question concerned the political future of Europe. For example, the questioner mentioned the Fouchet Plan, which, of course, we have studied. Again, I think it would be wrong, since these are matters of controversy within the Six, for me to express this afternoon, off the cuff or in any other way, a view in favour of one or other formulation; for the political unity of Europe, on which very many European statesmen have spent a great deal of time and thought, has so far been subject to different conclusions by them.

If I am asked – as I was – whether, in a few months, I would hope that we could reach agreement, whether on the Fouchet Plan or on any other, again I must turn the questioner to those who have been discussing those problems for the last ten years. In ten years, so far, no agreement has been reached, which is unfortunate. It is not for me, I think, from the outside, to say that in ten months we could reach an agreement which has not been reached in ten years.

But we will do our level best with you to see that we obtain a solution, because all of us are concerned about the future political unity of Europe. Indeed, I should like to express the view, which, I think, may not be acceptable to everyone here, that if we – as I hope – are to embark on discussions about British entry into the Community, then I hope that we can be associated with the discussions on political unity at the earliest possible moment so that we can make our contribution as from now instead of waiting until the economic and other discussions are complete.

The fifth question concerned association. I am aware that the idea has been mooted in some sections of the Press because of the great difficulties which undoubtedly exist -and we would be wrong to minimise them in our own minds or in our approach -about entry under Article 237, perhaps the Treaty of Association under Article 238 would be appropriate. It is not for me to attempt to lay down what form of involvement with the Community is appropriate for our colleagues in EFTA. Each of them will judge for himself what is the right association. It is not for me even to speculate about what their final decisions will be.

Some, I know, will want full membership; some, I believe, may well want associate membership. It is not for me to speculate about that. But I think that if we were to conclude now, because of the difficulties, that there was any future in the idea of Britain joining as an associate Member – being loosely associated with something in which, if the conditions are right, we shall be fully integrated – then I believe that would be a very half-hearted and defeatist solution.

Nor are we normally of a mind to join anything with which we have a loose association and do not have any say in the way in which it is run. No; that is perhaps a semi-escapist way of dealing with the difficulties we face. I would rather we all faced up to the difficulties and went straight for a solution of the problems that we face.


My colleagues will have noticed that I allowed Mr. Struye to put more than one question. Mr. Struye is the Chairman of our Political Committee. Of course, I would not only allow him but encourage him to do that in that capacity. However, I hope that my colleagues will agree that from now on they should put only one question.

Mr. Finn MOE (Norway)

First. I should like to join those of my colleagues who have congratulated Mr. Wilson on his brilliant speech. The question I wish to put is not of an economic nature, but it has, nevertheless, an important bearing on the negotiations which we all hope will lead to greater economic unity in Europe.

I have seen Press reports to the effect that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom accepts the idea of what has been called a twin pillar system of Atlantic defence. Is that so?

Mr Wilson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

I am always grateful for any advice, comments, or questions from my old friend, Mr. Finn Moe, and I thank him for what he has said. He has referred to a phrase or concept which is very familiar, I think, in discussions of these problems -the concept of the twin pillars on both sides of the Atlantic. Indeed, I think that it is usually used not in the context of Atlantic defence, but in connection with the broader question of the Atlantic partnership. The idea of course is that if that partnership is to be a real one it must be based on independence as well as interdependence, on a basis that each side of the Atlantic is capable of talking on equal terms to the other, which means strengthening our own base.

In so far as that concept refers to building up Europe's economic strength, technical ability and industry, then, as I said in my speech, that is very much our idea. Our concept of Atlantic partnership does not mean subservience or dependence on outside technology. The phrase " twin pillars " has often been used. Most of our speakers in the House of Commons during our debates have used it, as I have myself. We must be careful, in using any of those analogies, that we are not carried away by them. That is now an etablished cliché in these discussions. As the greatest master of cliché in the British House of Commons, I would be the last to deny anyone his cliché, particularly since I have used it myself; but we must be very careful about it.

If equality of strength by building up our own technological strength is meant, I believe that that is a useful cliché for all of us to use.

Mr. VOS (Netherlands)

As you, Mr. President, have made a rule that only the Chairman of the Political Committee can pose more than one question, but not the Chairman of the Economic Committee, then I agree with your rule.

I wish all success to Mr. Brown on his journey to all the European capitals. He will visit The Hague only after our elections have taken place.

In the European Parliament we are always faced with the question of the right to control the financial considerations involved in the agricultural policy. I should like to ask the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom whether the question of the rights and powers of Parliament with regard to the functioning of the Community, when large sums of money are involved, will be the subject of his negotiations with the other Prime Ministers and Heads of State he will be visiting during the next month. Will the question of the rights and powers of the European Parliament vis-à-vis the Commission and vis-à-vis the Government of the Community be on his agenda?

Mr Wilson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

I have discussed those problems often with Mr. Vos in committees in past years. It is a pleasure to hear him again on that subject.

If I understood the question aright, he was referring, I think, not to the control of national Parliaments, but to European parliamentary control over the working both of the agricultural programme and policy, and particularly over the financial aspects of that policy, because of the traditions in each of our own countries of parliamentary control over finance.

Mr. Vos asked me whether this is playing a part in our discussions with Heads of Government of the six EEC countries. The answer is, of course, that any question which any Head of Government wants to put to Mr. George Brown and myself, we shall do our best to answer. We for our part will stress the difficulties that need to be stressed, and we shall also stress those favourable factors we see. We shall also, as we have done in Rome, seek to learn from the principal countries the practical working of the Community as a means of overcoming the difficulties.

The future development of parliamentary control must be a matter for the Six themselves. It is not at present a reality, and, therefore, is not currently an issue. We should, as Members of the European Community, if our negotiations lead to that membership, play our full part with the others in discussing all these problems. I think that it would be wrong for us now, not as Members, to go faster and further than those who are. It would equally be wrong to suggest if we become Members that we might lag behind them in anything on which they agree.


I should like to make it clear to Mr. Vos that in the opinion of the Bureau all Committees are equal and all Committee Chairmen are equal. But it was a fact that as Mr. Struye was putting a question in the opening of the Political Debate I allowed him five questions.

I call Mr. Badini Confalonieri.

Mr. BADINI CONFALONIERI (Italy) (translation)

I shall put just one question to the Prime Minister.

He referred just now, in one of his replies, to his visit to Rome last week. The visit to Rome was the first stage of his European tour. There is a saying that “well begun is half done”.

Would the Prime Minister give us his impressions of that visit?

Mr Wilson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

As I said when I left Rome to the Press who were there, I felt that it had been a very good start to our tour. We had, as we had expected and even more so -been very warmly received by the Italian Government and had from them their assurance of full support for what we had set before ourselves. They were extremely helpful in giving us, out of their own rich experience of the work of the Community, some impression of how particular problems that they had have to face had been solved, for example, in the field of regional development and policies, which is a special problem for Italy and which is also a problem, so far as parts of the United Kingdom are concerned, for Britain.

We had an extremely good start. I might say that at one point, after an exchange of views on both sides, Mr. Fanfani put no fewer than fifteen questions off the reel to me and I tried to give him, with similar speed and crispness, fifteen answers. Whether he was satisfied with them, I am sure you will hear in Rome.

Mr. DUNNE (Ireland)

During his very eloquent and inspiring speech the Prime Minister referred to Celts, of whom I am one.

I should like to ask the Prime Minister this question. Would he comment upon the prospects of Irish unity in an extended European Economic Community?

Mr Wilson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

It is not a new question for me! I am happy to tell Mr. Dunne, if it is any comfort to him, that I represent twice as many Irishmen in the British House of Commons than he represents in the Dail! He was good enough not to make this question more difficult for me by asking it in Irish, so I shall not reciprocate by replying in “Liverpool scouse”, of which I am sure he has knowledge!

The question is not one which is principally concerned with the Treaty of Rome, or, indeed, any discussion under the Treaty of Rome. It is of much older origin and in its way it raises problems no less intransigent than those which Members of the Economic Community have to face.

For myself, I think that many of us in the British Parliament have been reasonably encouraged during the last year or two by the improved relations within Ireland as a result of the meetings between Mr. Lemass, when he was Taoiseach – I hope that I have pronounced that right – and the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Mr. O'Neill. I believe that they have both shown great statesmanship in coming together at a time when such action was likely to lead to criticism by constituents on each side of the border.

I am happy to say that both Mr. Lynch, the new Taoiseach, and Mr. Terence O'Neill, have been discussing this with me in Downing Street during the past four or five weeks. I believe that the signature of the Free Trade Treaty between Britain and the Republic of Ireland last year will of itself help to bring a closer economic unity between the two parts of Ireland, because this will mean that there will be over a period of time complete free trade between the whole of the British Isles, and the Border, which has been the scene of such interesting historical development that I do not want to dwell on it today, will now become open for trade between Northern and Southern Ireland.

The main question, I think, Mr. President, is not one for determination within the Treaty of Rome. If the Council of Europe cannot solve the problem, I doubt whether the European Economic Community unaided would be able to do so. In fact, I do not know that any of us can solve it, except those who live in Ireland. It is a problem for the people of Ireland. I know, just as my predecessors, that no one would be happier than Great Britain if this problem is solved by agreement within the Emerald Isle. I am sure that I am speaking for everyone in expressing the hope that over the next few years we shall see an intensification of the process of coming together which has begun during the last three or four years.


I hope that Mr. Dunne will be encouraged by the fact that the Prime Minister referred not only to the Emerald Isle but, in anticipation of your question, Mr. Dunne, is wearing a tie of Irish national colour.

I call Mr. Pounder.

Mr. POUNDER (United Kingdom)

While regretting that Mr. Dunne should have seen fit to use this occasion to engage in Irish nationalist propaganda, may I ask the Prime Minister whether he would confirm that it remains the policy of her Majesty's Government to abide by the 1949 Ireland Act, whereby people of Northern Ireland will determine their own constitutional destiny and maintain links with the United Kingdom as long as they so wish?

Mr Wilson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

I am not sure whether the questions which are normally put to me in the House of Commons, and which are answered with unfailing regularity, are a matter which should take up the time of this gathering. But I confirm that the answer I have given to some of Mr. Pounder's distinguished colleagues from Northern Ireland in the House of Commons remains the answer. That does not in any way detract from what I believe to be the real duty of all those in Northern and Southern Ireland, without propaganda and with a genuine desire to solve the problems, to get together and solve the Irish problem so that we can all express our warm blessing to them for solving it and so be free from having to answer all these questions in the future.


I feel that I must close this question-and-answer period at this point. There are two members of our Assembly who have written up to me since I have been sitting here, stating that they have questions, but I regret that it is not possible, within the time, to put them. However, I shall see that they get priority when speaking in the debate.

Mr. Wilson, on behalf of the Assembly, I wish to thank you very much indeed not only for coming here and for your speech, but for answering the questions we have put to you. Thank you very much indeed.