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Enlargement

Volume 950: debated on Wednesday 24 May 1978

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48.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the latest state of the EEC negotiations on the admission of Greece, Spain and Portugal as full members.

49.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he remains satisfied with the progress being made towards the enlargement of the EEC.

51.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on enlargement of the Common Market.

Negotiations with Greece are continuing. The Community still hopes that these can be substantially completed by the end of this year. The Council is expected to have a first discussion of the Commission's opinion on Portugal in June. The opinion on Spain is expected at the end of this year or the beginning of next.

The Government's view continues to be that, as well as maintaining the momentum in the negotiations with Greece, the Community should make more rapid progress in its preparations for negotiations with Portugal and Spain.

In those negotiations will my hon. Friend press the case of the British textile and footwear workers in order to ensure that low-cost imports do not flood into the country by the admission of these members to the EEC?

We recognise the problems that exist for many people in this country, and we shall be looking to their interests in negotiations about enlargement or anything else.

What view has the Minister now formed about the necessary transitional period for Greece?

We have not yet reached the stage of reaching a transitional period. This will come at a later stage in the negotiations. But whether we are talking about Greece, Portugal or Spain, we do not feel bound by any particular pattern established in the past. We believe that it is important to find the solution that makes sense in the context of the country concerned.

Will the Government make the opening of the Gibraltar-Spanish frontier a precondition to the opening of negotiations with Spain? Is he aware that the people of Gibraltar have suffered long enough from this Spanish stupidity? If the Spaniards are to negotiate to come into the Community, they should show a bit of good will right now.

I have made plain to the House on previous occasions that we do not attach this as a precondition for our support of Spanish membership. What we find inconceivable is that once Spain became a member of the Community she would continue to behave towards Gibraltar in the way that she has behaved so far.

Does my hon. Friend accept that hon. Members on both sides of the House will welcome the strong words of support that he has given to the enlargement of the Community by the addition of these three countries? Is he further aware that we regard this process as a strengthening of democracy in those countries and as an important contribution by the richer countries of Northern Europe in seeking to end what will otherwise become a North-South conflict between the poorer and the richer countries?

I am grateful for that question. The position of Her Majesty's Government, and, indeed, the position of every Government in the Community, is that we have a heavy responsibility to support the cause of democracy in the three applicant States and that enlargement will be an important way of achieving this end.

Does the Minister realise that the cause of democracy in Great Britain is not advanced by avoidable unemployment? Will he ensure that the other Ministers in the Council of Ministers are supplied with a copy of the report issued by the Trade and Industry Committee on the subject of fisheries? Will he see to it that we do not make any sacrifices of our interests in the textile industry when admitting further countries to the EEC? Lastly, does he believe that admitting Greece to the Community without Turkey will make the situation in Cyprus better rather than worse?

There are a number of points to answer in that supplementary question. Greece is an applicant for membership of the Community; Turkey is not. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman is not reflecting the reality of the situation.

On the point related to the social implications for Britain and industries that find themselves in difficulty, I assure the hon. Gentleman that all Ministers with responsibility in these areas are determined to leave the Community partners in no doubt about what needs to be done.

As for the general importance of economic affairs, I emphasise that it is because of British insistence, under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, that in the next meeting of the European Council the need for the right economic policies for growth and for battling effectively against unemployment is at the top of the agenda.