British Application to Join the European Economic Community

British Application to Join the European Economic Community

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.”1 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.

In contrast to her traditional stance, in which the United States did not wish to involve herself in European affairs, Washington was increasingly keen, as a result of the Soviet Union’s expansionist policy, to have strong allies in Western   Europe. Therefore, the U.S. wanted to see the United Kingdom entering the E.E.C.. For Britain on the other hand, it would have been a first step of the Chrchillian policy that Europe should be united, with Britain, through her political and diplomatic skill, as the leading nation of a Western European union; although, as has been said earlier, there were economic advantages too by the time. Nevertheless, the main implication would have been political. This is no more than what the leaders of all the British political parties admit when they say that “they accent the political as well as the economic objectives of the Treaty of Rome.”2

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