Post Imperial “Churchillian” Defence, and Economic British Foreign Policy

Post Imperial “Churchillian” Defence, and Economic British Foreign Policy

Nevertheless, with their leaders getting on well, co-operation between Britain and the U.S.A. in regard to defence, continued. After the war, as a matter of helping to defend the Free World against Communism, Britain also (with the view to her own interests) played an active role in negotiating post-war regional pacts, all under the N.A.T.O. pact, such as S.E.A.T.O. (in south-east Asia) and C.E.N.T.O. (the Baghdad Pact). Moreover, during the decolonisation process, bases in places such as Cyprus, Singapore, Gibraltar and Aden were retained and were shared with the Americans, under these pacts.

However, although there was a close relationship between the two countries’ leaders, MacMillan still distrusted the Americans and wanted an insurance against the United States failing to honour its nuclear guarantee of N.A.T.O. (and pacts under N.A.T.O.). He wanted an independent nuclear capacity, i.e. controlled by Britain and belonging to her. Therefore, MacMillan embarked on a negotiating process that received opposition both at home and in America. Kennedy’s Defence Secretary, Robert McNamara, publicly criticised such policy. MacMillan brought considerable influence to bear on Kennedy. Eventually, in December 1962, at the Nassau Conference, the United States agreed to sell Britain Polaris missiles to be fired from nuclear submarines to be built by Britain. In a major emergency affecting the United Kingdom alone, the British submarines could act under orders from London. The Polaris submarines were less vulnerable than other types of nuclear delivery system; and they would not necessarily attract a nuclear retaliatory strike, since they need not be based in the United Kingdom. In addition, MacMillan had also acquired Polaris on favourable terms, with Britain obliged to make only a small contribution to research and development in addition to the price of each missile. The price that Britain had to pay was de Gaulle’s blocking of Britain’s entry into the E.E.C., the third pillar of MacMillan’s policy in view of protecting Britain’s power and interests in the aftermath of Empire.


British Application to Join the European Economic Community

Harold MacMillan, like his predecessors Churchill and Eden, had the view that “we are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked, but not compromised. We are interested and associated, but not absorbed…. We belong to no single continent, but to all.”24 Nevertheless, as was, in particular, Churchill, so was MacMillan in favour of the creation of a European federal system. This was, in fact, Churchill’s ultimate objective. First was partnership and alliance with the United States, second, evolution of the Modern Commonwealth, and finally, close co-operation with Europe. Having achieved the first and second objectives, MacMillan now wanted to tackle the third, in practice by 1960, the issue of joining the E.E.C.. However, by 1960, MacMillan could also see major economic reasons for Britain joining the European Economic Community. MacMillan had the support of the banking circles and industry in Britain for his move, on the grounds that the E.E.C. would provide Britain’s industry with two things which it badly needed: a larger home market, and the stiff competition which would force it to improve efficiency. More support came from the ‘quality’ papers, such as the Telegraph and the Times, and the public in general. Despite this general public support for Britain’s plan to enter the E.E.C., the decision for this policy had not been originated in Parliament, in the press, or in public opinion, but in the Treasury, the boardrooms of big business and the Foreign Office. The Americans, who had always encouraged Britain to become more involved in the affairs of Europe, were pleased with MacMillan’s decision to join the E.E.C.. In fact, one of the reasons that the Americans were hesitant to supply the Polaris weapon to Britain was due to the fact that they thought de Gaulle would most likely veto Britain’s entry. This was because de Gaulle had consistently expressed an anti-American feeling since Second World War (resenting American treatment of the Free French), and Britain’s obtaining of Polaris was a further justification for vetoing Britain’s application. Moreover, de Gaulle rejected British entry into the E.E.C. because he was convinced that British friendship with the U.S. would result in more American influence in European affairs.

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