Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 13. Somewhere-in-July. 1971
1 Franks on E.E.C
1 Franks on E.E.C.
We have been waiting for the proverbial 'crunch' to come for New Zealand in the British negotiations to join the European Economic Community for so long that when it came most New Zealanders were probably relieved that at last we know where we stand in relation to that strange, incomprehensible monster, the E.E.C., or as it is incorrectly, and back in 1962-3 more commonly known, the Common Market.
Most people, I suspect, were so heartily sick of the Common Market and probably of Mr Marshall's trips to Europe and his nauseatingly repetitious statements about permanent arrangements for our butter, cheese and lamb exports to Britain, that the 'crunch' was very welcome. Certainly delegates to the Dairy Board's Dominion Conference which opened in Wellington the day after the terms of the Luxembourg agreement hit New Zealand, did not appear too disillusioned - if one can take the television interviews with delegates as a reliable gauge of opinion.
However much I dislike praising a government whose foreign policy is generally based on ill-conceived and unprincipled pragmatism, the concessions New Zealand has received from the E.E.C represent a substantial concession to New Zealand's request for special arrangements for our dairy exports to Britain; and also a remarkable success for New Zealand diplomacy, considering that New Zealand had to rely throughout the negotiations on Britain not to, as Social Credit's Deputy Leader, Tom Weal, so grandly exaggerated it, sell New Zealand "down the Thames." However boring and uninteresting Mr Marshall's trips to Europe may have become to urban, middle-class radicals in New Zealand, the government's diplomatic efforts in Britain and Europe over the last 8 or 9 years have avoided economic disaster for New Zealand. However exaggerated the Government's rumblings about economic disaster (if the E.E.C. had not provided special arrangements for N.Z.'s dairy exports to Britain) might have sounded, the loss of the major export market for our major exports would possibly have caused even urban middle-class radicals some economic hardship.
Although I suspect that, in several years time, when some eager academic gets down to writing about New Zealand's special case in relation to British entry into the E.E.C., he or she will record the Luxembourg Agreement of June 22nd, 1971 on terms for New Zealand's dairy exports, as a diplomatic success; the National Government by in effect accepting the British/E.E.C. agreement on N.Z., has left itself wide open to political attack at home. In a report from London in the Evening Post of June 21st, Mr Marshall said that he feared a "grey" result of the negotiations. "If it is good or bad we can say so, but if it is in between it is going to be an agonising decision. If major political decisions are involved it might be necessary to come here again." The agreement is neither very good, nor very bad, it falls into the "grey" area and while the economic effects of British entry into E.E.C. will not be ruinous for New Zealand, the political effects of the agreement might well add up to another nail in the Holyoake Government's coffin.
The Government's diplomatic pressure on the British and the E.E.C. has generally been efficient", capable and fairly successful. Not only has New Zealand built up effective and comprehensive diplomatic representation in the E.E.C. capitals but the Government has carried out a fairly extensive information and publicity programme in Britain and Europe, as well as a programme of bringing E.E.C. Ministers and officials out to New Zealand. In the New Zealand bureaucracy, the New Zealand case has been worked on by at least four major government departments as well as the semi-official producer boards. It would appear that inter-departmental co-operation has worked fairly successfully in this case.
While the New Zealand case has been quite capably managed overseas and in New Zealand in its direction toward the United Kingdom and the six E.E.C. countries, the Government has failed to provide the New Zealand public, by direct and indirect means with adequate information about N.Z.'s case or the E.E.C; so that when the 'crunch' came the public would be prepared for it. To be fair, the Government should not be altogether blamed for this failure - how could you explain that although we say we want continuity of trade in butter, cheese and lamb at its present levels, we really only expect about 60-80% of current exports of butter and cheese to Britain to be guaranteeed after British entry? Some people, of course deny that the Government should "feed" information about foreign affairs to the public; such a policy would smack of sinister manipulation. The 1971 Report of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would appear to support this view. After discussing New Zealand's publicity and information activities overseas, the section of the report dealing with the work of the Ministry's Information and Cultural Affairs Division, states that "at home, the Ministry's activities are directed to helping to inform the New Zealand public on foreign policy issues and the Government's attitude to these. Although important, the latter is only a minor part of information activity..."
The whole point about the E.E.C as it has affected our foreign policy is that the whole question of British entry and the possible effects on New Zealand has been a murky "grey" area. The issues at stake have been and are complex and difficult to understand. The whole concept of the E.E.C is complex and mystifying, and frequent usage in the past of the inaccurate substitute term 'Common Market' has not helped clarify the confusion. It seems to me that the Government might have devoted a lot more time to explaining N.Z.'s case to New Zealanders, and, perhaps more important, explaining what the E.E.C is, and its economic and political consequences. Unfortunately, underlying the current state of public ignorance about the E.E.C there is, I fear, latent Anglo-Saxon xenophobia towards Europe which could be exploited by such right-wing extremists as the Social Credit Political League; who, for all their non-alignment in foreign affairs rhetoric, have taken a distinctly right wing attitude on the question of British entry to the E.E.C.
The Social Credit League's position seems similar to that of the right-wing Conservative opponents of British entry in the United Kingdom, although Mr Weal has emphasised ad nauseum the Commonwealth and, of course, the wicked monopoly-capitalistic nature of the European Economic Community. Mr Weal's address to the 1971 Social Credit Conference in Hamilton was a good statement of the League's position. The following quote from Mr Weal's harangue shows Social Credit's attitude quite well, as well as Mr Weal's metaphorical muddlement:
"Mr Chairman! The time has come for New Zealanders, as Indeed for all other members of the Commonwealth, to realise that this Commonwealth of ours is being treacherously put up for sale, or, is about to be sold down the river - whichever you prefer. It is time for us all to realise that a long-standing Commonwealth covenant, sealed again and again with the blood of Commonwealth manhood, is, unless we the people of the Commonwealth say otherwise, about to be Judased for a very dubious thirty pieces of Common Market silver - is about to be offered on the altar of sacrifice to placate the God of Mammon." Despite the unconscious hilarity of Mr Weal's remarks, there is implicit in Social Credit's rhetoric about the Commonwealth an unpleasant "Rule Britannia" element. Mr Weal will keep on stumping around Britain, crying "keep Britain out" in the name of "loyal" New Zealanders, and there is a frightening possibility that Social Credit's rather hysterical attitude to Britain and the E.E.C. might find some active public support in New Zealand, given the state of public ignorance about the Community and Anglo-Saxon xenophobia towards inferior Europeans.
"Let us accept the seriousness of the position but let us also accept that we are not a nation without tail between our legs. We don't have to creep; we are not hand wringing, helpless people. While it is true that inadequate provision for New Zealand trade would inflict an injury upon this country, it is also true that in times of adversity the people of this country have risen magnificently to do what is needed... Given leadership, given policy, given a sense of national purpose, New Zealanders will neither be cowed nor brow-beaten by events. Instead they will do as they have always done - get on with the job."
When the Luxembourg agreement was announced by the Prime Minister to the House of Representaives, Mr Kirk was able to attack the Government's apparent acceptance of the agreement, because New Zealand had abandoned its goal of a continuity of trade in butter, cheese and lamb. The President of the Labour Party, Mr Rowling exposed the weakness of the Government's position by pointing out that the day before the agreement was reached on arrangements for N.Z.'s butter and cheese exports, Mr Marshall had said that the quantitive guarantees or 66% of current butter and cheese exports offered by the six E.E.C. countries were "totally inadequate." How, Mr Rowling asked, could a five percent shift change the circumstances enough by the afternoon to enable the Government to have a "complete about face." The position agreed to was only five percent better than the formal starting point of the negotiations which Mr Marshall rejected.
This weakness in the Government's position is of course related to the Government's failure to adequately inform the public through whatever devious and indirect means available, that the likely outcome of the negotiations over N.Z.'s position would very probably be different from N.Z.'s stated demand for a continuity of her trade in butter, cheese and lamb at its present levels. Perhaps this failure was unavoidable and perhaps it was a failure of the mass media as well as the Government. Nevertheless, the Labour Party is in a strong position. Mr Kirk, praised by the Prime Minister and Mr Marshall for assisting N.Z.'s case in Britain and Europe, can quite plausibly accuse the government of abandoning its previous hard-line position and thereby ending the bipartisan approach adopted by the Labour Party to the problem. Labour's attitude is that the Luxembourg agreement is still open for negotiation and the Labour Party would be making every effort to achieve improvements. Mr Kirk, on "Gallery" on Thursday 24th, seemed to reject the rumour that the President of the Labour Party would be going to Britain on a mission rather similar to that of Mr Weal. While it is possible that Mr Rowling will be the Labour Party's fraternal delegate to the British Labour Party Conference, to be held before the House of Commons votes on the E.E.C. entry issue; Mr Kirk's past attitude suggests that the Labour Party will definitely not follow Social Credit in joining with the anti-Common Market groups in Britain. Mr Kirk told the New Zealand Labour Party Conference that he believed it "to be unwise for New Zealand to say that we support entry or that we oppose it. Either result in a political diversion to our own disadvantage." Harold Wilson, the British Leader of the Opposition, is expected to visit New Zealand fairly soon, according to a report in the N.Z. Herald of June 29th quoting the Financial Times. Such a visit would provide the New Zealand Labour Party with ample opportunity to put its views to its comrade party in Britain. While I think it is unlikely that the Labour Party will adopt an uncompromising, "Britain's let us down" attitude and take it to Britain; this alternative is quite tempting and could have unfortunate consequences for New Zealand, if, to take a purely hypothetical possibility, the House of Commons was to vote against entry because of New Zealand. The unfortunate consequences would come not only from the British Government, but also from the E.E.C., all of whose members, to varying extents, want Britain to join. New Zealand cannot afford to make such powerful enemies. The Labour Party, however, does not need to press too hard for re-negotiation of the Luxembourg agreement; it has enough political capital to make at home out of the Government's apparent about face.
Formal acceptance of the Luxembourg agreement on safeguards for New Zealand's trade to Britian will place the Government in a difficult position, and it is very unlikely that the Government would, at this stage, repudiate the agreement. However the terms for New Zealand do represent a substantial diplomatic achievement for this country. Considering French oppositon to any sort of long-term arrangement for New Zealand since 1962, the E.E.C.'s protectionist and inward-looking attitude to world trade, and the Heath Government's eagerness to "get into Europe"; Mr Marshall and his colleagues have not in fact sold us "down the Thames". However the Second Battle of Britain, as a recent Social Credit pamphlet puts it, is not over yet. The final decision on British entry to the E.E.C. will be made by the House of Commons. Considering the British Government's determination and the fervent determination of some members of the Six to get Britain into the Community, I would speculate that Britain will join the E.E.C. New Zealand will, after 130 years of reliance on Britain, have to stand on its own feet. But there's always the consolation that we did better than Australia, and anyway we won't go hungry with lot of cheese and quite a lot of butter (not counting lamb) for home consumption.