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Enlargement (Timetable)

Volume 986: debated on Wednesday 18 June 1980

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asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the likely timetable for enlargement of the European Economic Community.

Greece will join the Community on 1 January 1981. The Portuguese and Spanish Governments wish to join in 1983, and we fully support them in that aim.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is an overwhelming political case for the enlargement of the EEC by the admission of Spain and Portugal at the earliest opportunity? Does he agree that if major national problems are caused for new or existing members these should not be used as reasons for delay in granting membership or for preventing it, but should be overcome by national solutions? If that approach is adopted that will be a welcome trend in the development of the Community.

I entirely accept that. There are overwhelming political reasons for the accession of Spain and Portugal as soon as possible. Our aim is certainly that they should join in 1983. If there are any difficulties I agree that they should be sorted out as soon as possible.

Cannot the Government put an end to this EEC nonsense by declaring UDI for Britain?

With respect, I do not think that this is a sensible moment to ask such a question—when we have recently concluded a satisfactory agreement with the EEC.

Will not my right hon. Friend hasten slowly on this difficult matters? Does he not agree that the Community has taken some time to digest us, and vice versa? Will not the advent of three new, largely agricultural countries, be liable to cause further indigestion in the Community?

I am not sure that my hon. Friend has got his digestive processes right. Greece joins in January this year——

If Greece has not joined already, it follows that it will join next January. Spain and Portugal will join two years later. There is, therefore, a considerable interval. As my hon. Friend knows, this has been under consideration for some time, and I am confident that the accession of Greece, Spain and Portugal can be brought about without the troubles that he fears.

Has the Lord Privy Seal seen the recent statement of President Giscard, questioning the timetable for enlarging the Community? Has the Foreign Office made clear to the President of France that we reject his proposals that the advent of Spain and Portugal be delayed?

We have certainly made it clear that we believe that any problems over our budget solution should have nothing to do with the date of Spain and Portugal's accession to the Community. We have made it clear to Spain and Portugal that we strongly support their entry on the original date.