Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Orders of the Day — European Communities Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th July 1972.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Harold Lever Mr Harold Lever , Manchester Cheetham 12:00 am, 13th July 1972

If my hon. Friend will bear with me, he will appreciate from my speech that the great healing aspect of this debate is that the argument does not end, and cannot end, today. I will explain this in the course of my speech, as I had intended to do.

We have heard a great deal about the economic cost involved in our accession to the Community. Anybody is entitled to take a different view from mine, but I believe that it is quite absurd to parade before the British people the threat that to enter the Community we must find, across the exchanges, £700, £800 or £1,000 million each year. It is not feasible. It cannot happen and it would be to the disadvantage of Europeans. In the light of our present knowledge it would be an attempt to enforce a reparations treaty on a victorious, innocent and gallant country which could not possibly be sustained by that country or indeed be accepted by the recipients.

It is only the divorce of thinking from the realities of modern, international exchanges that could permit anybody genuinely to believe that the Europeans could or would exact such a payment, or that we could seek to meet such a payment year in year out across the exchanges. Nobody knows—I certainly do not—what will be the balance of payments consequences of entering Europe. I only know that, if we are to continue in the Community, the balance of payments cost cannot be such as would cripple our trade or to seek to disrupt the trade of our European partners, because this is what would happen if we had to find these astronomical sums by means of an export surplus.

I am appalled at the naïvety of some of our seminar economists who act under the supposition that all that is required for the Government to achieve an export surplus to make such a ludicrous payment is for them to alter the parity to a certain level. This is such an absurdity that I cannot dispose of it more than by mere assertion in a debate of this kind. Any anxieties about massive balance of payments disadvantages being exacted from us are inherently ridiculous in the modern context of international exchanges. It cannot and will not happen. So much for the so-called impossible economic burden which will be put upon us and which it has been said will reduce us to the status of Northern Ireland.

The other anxiety which I can well understand troubles a great many people is the question of the transfer of law-making power. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) appeared to suggest that those of us who are anxious to promote this European venture do so because we are indifferent to or do not sufficiently value self-government. Nothing could be further from the truth. So far as I am concerned, and certainly so far as the great majority of pro-Europeans are concerned, the heart and purpose of our support for the European venture is to protect and promote the possibility of our self-government—in other words of deciding our own lives here in this country in accordance with traditions, institutions and the wishes of our own people.

I regard this as one of the major motivations for going into Europe. I believe that by co-operating with the people of Europe we shall create economic and political conditions which, far from diminishing the powers of the people to decide their future destiny, will add to and reinforce their power to decide their own fate in future.