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European Economic Community

Volume 721: debated on Monday 22 November 1965

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38.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will reopen negotiations for British membership of the European Economic Community.

I have nothing to add to the reply which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave the hon. Gentleman on 3rd August.

In view of the recent shifts of opinion within the European Community, would not the Foreign Secretary agree that it is high time that Her Majesty's Government stopped beating about the bush and said straight out that, when conditions permit, it is their intention to join the European Community and to throw the weight of Britain on to the side of those who want to alter it into a more outward-looking direction?

Putting it like that, making British entry apparently a factor on one side or the other in the present disagreements in the Community, would be most unfortunate. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it clear that we are ready and willing to join a European Community, provided that essential British interests can be safeguarded.

Since the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) refers to shifts of opinion, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend has taken note of the not unamusing letter in The Times this morning, which shows that a number of Conservative Commonwealth enthusiasts have apparently shifted their opinion?

My hon. Friend will agree that that hardly lies within my sphere of responsibility.

Do the Government still feel bound by the five conditions, in particular that on national planning?

This also has been explained. The five conditions still stand: indeed, they are essential. Some of them appear much less difficult of fulfilment now than when they were formulated.

Will my right hon. Friend in the meantime make it plain that the Leader of the Opposition is not acting as his emissary today to President de Gaulle?

While accepting that now is not the moment for any formal approach to the Community, surely the right hon. Gentleman is aware—whatever he might think in terms of the Prime Minister having made his position clear —that there is a widespread feeling of lack of knowledge on the part of our friends in Europe about the present Government's intentions, about whether or not they intend to join the Community when the opportunity occurs? Would he make that clear?

I do not think that this is so. This has been explained to our friends in Europe, quite recently, at the meeting of the Western European Union.