Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 2. 1967.
Wilson to slide than presidential back next turns —
Wilson to slide than presidential back next turns —
What was Mr. Wilson up to in Europe? The tactics of last month's Cook's Tour of the capitals—was this to build a ritualistic, institutional aura around Britain's new try for a place in Europe? Thereupon, having so befuddled the obstinate old General, Mr. Wilson can be relied upon to slide Britain into the Market when next the Presidential back is turned.
Rather unlikely. Mr. Wilson, ambushed by his own innocence, went to the Elysee on the first "delicate probe" searching for an abstract guarantee of no political objections. Had he selected, instead, to seize the lightning initiative of a pre-emptive strike right to the heart of the Market in Brussels, having pared Britain's case to the bone to prevent gratuitous concessions. Mr. Wilson might even now be calling the tune.
President de Gaulle would have been confronted with an unequivocal yes-no choice, possibly even prior to this month's cliff-hanger French elections. Admittedly, and here's the rub. Britain might be licking wounds and preparing for a third try on the ashes, of the second. But any British initiative collapsed when Paris gave the unequivocal "perhaps" and now her one choice is that of the long slow siege of the Market.
This, presumably, will climax in mid-1968, as the virtuoso French negotiators buy time as in 1961 as a prelude to returning all players to square one. De Gaulle, unwavering as ever to the fundamental conservative principles of flexibility and healthy opportunism, will squeeze Britain (ill the pips squeak.
The real problem in all this is that, while all Britain's long-term plans assume Market involvement, none of the short-term ones give any inkling how this will come about. Assuming a British commitment, what problems are entailed in the coming siege?
The obvious ones are economic. Entry won't substantially iron out her bottlenecks of inefficiency and slow growth; these need domestic reconstruction of the sort which is conceivably now occurring. What the Market does offer members is a substantial pool of markets, resources and capital.
The modern technological industries of the kind on which Britain's industrial future depends require for optimum turnover a much wider free-trading area than she now enjoys. In graphic terms the difference lies between Britain's 53 million people and EEC's 280 million, her £30 thousand million GNP and the Market's potential £125 thousand million.
In this half-century the biggest challenge Europe is likely to face is the second science-based industrial revolution now emanating from America and, less-so, Russia. To compete with these big-leaguers all Europe's little-leaguers have to come together, cross-fertilize their industrial technologies, and get in step. Britain is the area's most technologically-advanced country—especially in atomic power, aircraft and electronics. This is the ace card Britain holds.
The first of the four economic problems a Market-bound Britain faces is the Market's economically irrational agricultural system which would, in effect, destroy her present cheap-food policies and hit the farmer hard. Given suitable social security arrangements for the food-producers, this is a transient matter.
The "special problems" involved with the perpetuation of commonwealth preference are more serious. No-one has defined all peculiar intricacies of this in any depth. Wherever producers agitate collectively—New Zealand farmers. Jamaican sugar farmers. North African cocoa growers—the problem exists. Would Mr. Wilson forsake these special interests in a concerted bid for entry? Almost certainly, he would: but he won't be saying so, partly to retain a bargaining point for peripheral issues, partly to retain political dignity if things come to the crunch.
Thirdly, integrated community planning would intrude upon Britain's cherished ideas of national sovereignty. The Rome Treaty implies a potential deprivation of absolute economic freedom by stipulating the phased integration of tax, social, planning, trade union, and other policies. In many of these fields, contrary to the situation in the 50's, EEC members are streets ahead of Britain.
The most central economic problem, (and the only one which interests de Gaulle, who has a notorious disregard of economies), concerns Britain's role as short term banker to the world. In the Market situation of equal prices and free movement for industrial products, any country which gets out of step in levels of production can suffer serious balance-of-payments fluctutions. Free-floating capital acts in a counter-cyclical fashion by gravitating to those countries where a boom situation, and hence a deficit, exists.
Britain's situation is quite the reverse of this. A current deficit at home causes capital to go abroad, and, even assuming a remarkable strengthening of sterling in future, a Britain acting as a world banker cannot hope to block sterling outflows in lean years. As a disruptive element within the Market, Britain would be like the tail that wags the dog.
These measures are all worthwhile for their own sake, in or out of the Market. Where the dialogue will bog down is in that sticky area where differing notions of national destiny and world roles meet. The General always commendably resisted the obsessive anti-communist crusade which so distorted post-war American statesmanship. France is only the extreme example of the prevailing national attitude inclining to assert European independence of the cold war attitudes.
As the Nassau Anglo-American agreement of 1961 was Suite sufficient to torpedo the first entry bid, the Labour Government's desire to be, at times, more catholic than the Pope in its support of America's Asian adventure, could have the same culminatory effect upon the talks this time. So long as Britain persists, in Gallic eyes, In looking for all the world like an American wooden horse at the Market gates, the horse will remain out in the cold. Hence the need for a strong assertion that Britain is a free agent in foreign policy. Her Kiplingesque military adventure is not only extraordinarily expensive; it alienates the Europeans.
Given that Maoism, not Western imperialism, is the major motive force in contemporary Asia. Britain's allies will go on wanting her aid into the 1970's in support of their counter - imperialist policies. But this involvement has all the properties of an irritant in the European system.
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[unclear: arguments] of Manny [unclear: ell's] band revolve around [unclear: conomic] disadvantages, to Commonwealth trade, of political sovereignty, the opening up of the West division across [unclear: e]. Disposing of the last the temporary [unclear: dissolution] of that political unity EEC possesses is almost [unclear: n] to occur once Britain heralding the probable [unclear: ion] of a more relaxed trade area. Once his [unclear: itment] is announced and [unclear: neomfortable] ambiguities [unclear: s] present attitude are dissipated, Mr. Wilson is likely to find the neccessary consensus within his party and the country that he requires.
Assuming at least some of these imponderables come to pass, the Market without France would probably be inclined to accept Britain on reasonable terms. Would de Gaulle? This depends more than anything on whether he will pursue In his few remaining years his grand design for French leadership of a continental coalition from the Atlantic to the Urals, and if so, whether he sees his course to this to be via Common Market or through Franco-Soviet co-operation.
A Britain in a modified, predominantly economic, free-trade area would not appear to him an insuperable challenge for French hegemony within Europe. Will Britain choose to enter? The problems of going in pale into utter insignificance when matched with those of staving out.