North Atlantic Free Trade Area

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th July 1968.

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Photo of Mr Maurice Foley Mr Maurice Foley , West Bromwich 12:00 am, 26th July 1968

This is one of the instances where our proposal to develop a European technological community is a demonstration that things are not static, that we are aware of these implications.

Similarly, while emphasising the continuing importance of our membership of the Atlantic Alliance, we see our membership of the E.E.C. as providing a means by which a united Europe can better make its voice heard in the world. In this respect, our decisions to apply for membership of the E.E.C. and to reduce our commitments east of Suez were, taken together, a significant turning point in British foreign policy.

When we look back to the debate in the House and in the country at large last year, we can see that while we were alive to the great economic possibilities which membership of the European Communities would open it was the political considerations which were decisive for us. We recognised and avowed that we were aiming at something far more than material prosperity, that what we were seeking was a greater political purpose for Western Europe and for Britain as a part of it.

These considerations apply equally today, and I ask those who agree broadly with them to consider how far an Atlantic free trade area would satisfy such needs. Clearly there are certain attractions in a form of organisation, if it could be devised, that would strengthen our existing ties with the United States and with one or more of the developed countries of the Commonwealth. But we should have to be very careful of the possible danger that it might provoke the kind of split between the countries of Western Europe and North America which it is one of the main aims of our policy to prevent. It is hard to believe that the E.E.C. at present would have any interest in joining a N.A.F.T.A. Such a grouping would suggest to it that the United Kingdom had irrevocably committed itself to its aims that might be in conflict with its interests. It would be the so-called special relationship with the United States all over again.

As has been evident in our brief debate—