HC Deb 24 October 1967 vol 751 cc1492-5
Q2. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Prime Minister what progress has been made in Great Britain's negotiations to join the European Economic Community; and if he will make a statement.

Q6. Mr. Winnick

asked the Prime Minister if he will now state the position with regard to the British application to join the European Economic Community.

Q7. Sir Knox Cunningham

asked the Prime Minister what communications he has had with the President of France during the Recess on the subject of the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community; and what progress has been made with the United Kingdom's application.

Q14. Mr. Eldon Griffiths

asked the Prime Minister what progress has been made on negotiations for British entry to the Common Market.

Q31. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the progress of his recent European continental talks and communications directed to Great Britain's entry into the Common Market.

The Prime Minister

Since I last reported to the House, the European Commission has prepared its Opinion on Britain's application, in accordance with the procedure laid down in the Treaty of Rome. This document, which concluded that negotiations should be opened, is now being discussed at the two-day meeting of the E.E.C. Council of Ministers at Luxembourg. When that meeting is over my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will make a statement to the House. In advance of that statement, and in view of reports which have appeared about the first day's transactions in Luxembourg, I should perhaps make this clear. Our application is in and remains in. We shall not be deterred by day-to-day developments or possible disappointments. We reject some of the reported statements as ill-informed, and conclusions said to be drawn from them as unwarranted and inadmissible. We are prepared to let the facts talk. Therefore I repeat that we are ready to enter into negotiations now.

Mr. Roberts

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that our application is based upon strength and not weakness by setting a time limit of months for the consideration of our application, and, if nothing has happened by then, making it clear that we shall look elsewhere for economic and technological co-operation?

The Prime Minister

I think that the very robust attitude of the large majority of the Six makes clear their attitude to our application. I do not feel that it would serve British national purposes best by fixing any time limit. I have said that our application is in and remains in. In one sense it might be said that time is on our side, but I do not believe that time is on the side of those in Europe and Britain who want to see a much stronger technologically-based Europe with greater power to influence world events.

Mr. Winnick

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that our chances of gaining entry to the Common Market at this stage are very slim, and that it is humiliating for the country if we proceed with our application if there are such strong and unreasonable objections from some of the countries in the Community?

The Prime Minister

I think that for objections to be strong and unreasonable and seen to be such does not in any sense involve any humiliation for this country. I have already said what I and the Government feel about certain statements reported as having been made yesterday.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Now it is clear that our application will fail, what plan has the Prime Minister for Britain?

The Prime Minister

The hon. and learned Member may possibly have drawn that conclusion from what has happened. I do not. I suggest to the hon. and learned Member that he awaits the statement which my right hon. Friend will make when we have had a full report of what happened in Luxembourg.

Mr. Hughes

Does the Prime Minister feel that the present visit of a distinguished German statesman will help Britain's application to join the Common Market and, if so, in what way?

The Prime Minister

The full support of the German Government for Britain's entry has never been in doubt. I have not yet seen any report of what has been said at Luxembourg today on behalf of the German Government, but I have no doubt at all that they will take every means open to them to secure a successful outcome to the initiative that we have taken.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Will the right hon. Gentleman see whether his right hon. Friend can make his statement before foreign affairs are debated on the Queen's Speech?

The Prime Minister

It is the intention that he should make a statement this week, but, as I have said, we must wait until we have a full report from Luxembourg. I think that it will probably be made on Thursday, but certainly before Prorogation.

Mr. Thorpe

In view of the fact that the strongest reservations by the Commission, and at any rate by France, have been in regard to sterling, to its valuation and to its reserve rôle, and in view of the very helpful speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Rio, will the Government consider taking a fresh initiative with regard to the suggestion for a European reserve currency?

The Prime Minister

No initiative is called for. These matters can be discussed in negotiations. What my right hon. Friend said in Rio and what he said in an interview in Le Monde is what he has said in the House when we have debated these matters and what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I stated in Paris. Since the right hon. Gentleman has, I think, incorrectly, referred to the valuation of sterling, I would just make it clear that when my right hon. Friend and I were in Paris the French Prime Minister went to great lengths to make clear his confidence in the valuation of sterling.

Mr. Shinwell

Why does my right hon. Friend speak about ill-informed statements? What are these ill-informed statements? When he speaks about facts which have not been disclosed, have we not been told over and over again that all the facts have been disclosed to the House? Will he now disclose the facts which hitherto have not been disclosed?

The Prime Minister

The facts have been fully disclosed to the House because, so far as Britain's economic position is concerned, we have debated it very fully and it has been dealt with many times at Question Time. When I referred to the facts, I meant the situation that at least one speech made yesterday did not seem to be based on those facts despite the efforts of my right hon. Friend and me in Paris to make the facts known to our hosts.