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Orders of the Day — European Communities Bill

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

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Photo of Mr Raymond Fletcher Mr Raymond Fletcher , Ilkeston 12:00 am, 13th July 1972

I take it that I shall not be accused of disorderly conduct if I come back to the Bill and talk about the whole Bill and nothing but the Bill.

We are not discussing what happened on 28th October, when there was a great wave of euphoria in the House and various people voted for different propositions, such as that it would be a bad thing to have a revival of the war of 1870, that it is a good idea for Germans and Frenchmen to love each other instead of fighting each other, and that it is better for British workers to go to Baden-Baden for their holidays than Skegness. Such were the matters voted upon on 28th October in a great upsurge of emotion.

However, as the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), who has recently been in my constituency, which has improved enormously the character of his mind, reminded us, we are not sent to this House to register sentiments and emotions. We are sent here to discuss specific legislative proposals.

What is most noticeable about the progress of the Bill through the House is that the closer we come to the nuts and bolts the cooler the enthusiasm of the pro-Marketeers has become. Everyone knows that the Third Reading will not be decided by anybody present in the Chamber. It will be decided by the non-votes of those who are now skulking in the woodwork. Everybody knows that. In a sense I am wasting the time of the House by making a speech, nevertheless, I intend to continue.

The Bill, as we were reminded by the Chairman of Ways and Means, provides the machinery necessary to propel us into the European Economic Community, and it becomes necessary there- fore to know something of the nature of the European Economic Community. I spend a good deal of my time in Europe. I am by blood, education and by all the other stigmata as good a European as any hon. Member. I do not have to run about with interpreters when I visit Europe.

The Europe that is presented to me by my pro-European friends is not the Europe I visit—the Europe in which I pay good money over counters in order to eat, the Europe that I travel in, not as a first-class passenger as the guest of the propaganda machine of the European Commission but at my own expense or at the expense of the newspapers or business organisations which I happen to represent.

What kind of Community are we discussing when a leading advocate of British entry into the European Economic Community, Mr. Alan Watson, the most eloquent advocate of federalism I have read recently—I keep closely in touch with current literature on the Market and I have read Mr. AlanWatson's book "Europe at risk", which has only just been added to the Library—practically denounces everything which we are doing in the Bill because it is a threat to the federal Europe in which he believes and for which he is so persuasive an advocate?

What is the real Europe? We are given to assume that in the wonderful Europe of the European Community all existing political laws as we have understood them over the years have been transcended, that all historical experience has been thrown into some gigantic waste paper basket, that human behaviour has been transformed, that national Parliaments and Governments no longer think in terms of national interest or narrow political terms but have all become idealists with the pure undiluted milk of idealism flowing from them all. That is not so. Normal political processes go on in Europe quite different from the processes presented to me by the starry-eyed visionaries who pay occasional visits to Brussels at the expense of the European propaganda machine.

Let us remind ourselves what happened in France when the deadline came nearer for the abolition of internal tariffs. Did the French dance in the streets as they do on 14th July? Did they sing "La Marseillaise" with added fervour? They did nothing of the kind. They behaved in precisely the way that one would expect any country to behave in a situation in which its production costs were rising 3 per cent. faster than those of its nearest competitor—they devalued. France went in for the rationalisation of her industries. That provoked so much industrial unrest that the workers and the students came out on the streets of Paris. They not only almost brought down President de Gaulle but almost wrecked Paris. It was one of those occasions when I was not visiting Paris—thank God for that, for I usually have a remarkable propensity for finding myself in the middle of trouble.

There was no wonderful enthusiasm or euphoria as the deadline for the great event approached, national States behave as national States always have behaved, and, I regret to say, as national States will always behave. We can perhaps control them to some extent; we have, indeed, controlled them already, or they have controlled themselves in Europe.

I am no enemy of the new Europe. We have controlled our aggressive impulses by joining together in NATO with former enemies. We can slow down many of these aggressive impluses which have tormented the world, but we cannot abolish them completely. Nor can we castrate away the impulse of national Governments to make profit, the impulse to take advantage of a neighbour's temporary difficulties, the impulse to put one's own nation first and above all others.

Another aspect of Europe about which so much has been made is that a unified economy is being created. If that were so, I should be the first to stand up and cheer. I should say "Glory hallelujah", because it is the first condition of international peace that there should be a unified economy in Europe and then the world. As I once put it when I was permitted to write for that excellent journal The Guardian, which has greatly deteriorated since I ceased to write for it, I want a world in which General Motors in Germany cannot conceive of waging war on General Motors in France. I speak in no spirit of savage hostility towards multi-national corporations, which will do more to end apartheid in South Africa than all the protests made from the House.

Is the creation of a unified European economy taking place under the aegis of the Common Market institutions? Nothing of the kind. The only effective mergers taking place are American mergers. M. Servan-Schreiber has written two books describing that process and, to some extent, protesting against it. Only recently an oil company in Germany was prevented from merging with an oil company in France.

s we have been reminded in Committee, there is no unified company law in Europe and no encouragement is given to mergers. Consequently there is no unified automobile industry in Europe. The aerospace industry in Europe is in no position, without constant propping by Governments, to compete, or even stand in the same show, with the American aerospace industry. None of these wonderful things is happening.

Clause 12 of the Bill deals with a tiny part of Euratom. However, since the Chairman of Ways and Means allowed wider aspects to be discussed, I trust that I can go into them now.

Euratom was designed as a marvellous institution to make the atom work for peace on a European scale, and I am all for that. I regularly vote against sin and for virtue. I have a well-known record of consistency in that. If Euratom really did turn into an institution which would make the atom work for peace on a European scale, if national boundaries and national rivalries really were being torn down, I would say "Glory hallelujah" again. But the first thing we have to recognise is that, in fact, Euratom has been the most dismal failure of all the three Communities in Europe. The EEC report on Euratom dealing with the decade 1960–70 said: The nuclear industry like most other advanced technology industries… had …so far reaped scarcely any benefit from the Common Market…The abolition of customs duties has not done away with sealed-off national markets because the development of advanced industries depends far more on the actions of the public authorities than on the normal working of the laws of supply and demand. That is not me talking—it is the Commission itself.

Let us look at the results of Euratom, this supposed great adventure. Here, this speech tends to become dull and boring and those who want to go to sleep may do so. Between 1960 and 1970, Euratom maintained 15 constructors of nuclear power plant, 13 fuel element manufacturers,10 turbine makers and nine steel pressure vessel makers. It all sounds very impressive and as though a considerable nuclear capability exists under the ægis of Euratom. But when we look across the Atlantic at the United States we find that one contractor alone, Westinghouse, equalled the production of the whole 13 fuel element contractors in Europe, that the four smallest United States contractors for making nuclear power stations received orders equal to Europe's 15, and that two fairly small United States firms made a number of turbines equal to the whole production of Europe's 10. So Euratom has not an impressive record, whether one looks at it in technological terms as an experiment in joint collaboration to produce nuclear energy for European purposes or as an industrial venture per se. Yet, as I reminded the Committee, we intend to put a really advanced nuclear industry into this ramshackle structure. It is a terribly bad bargain.

Even worse is to come. Here I must concentrate because other hon. Members want to speak. As a consequence of the French more or less dominating the market structure, as a result of the three occasions on which the French have almost declared a general strike against the whole Community unless they got their way, we have reached a situation in Europe which I will describe as follows: We have had the experience that the Community has become more and more unreal for many people in the member countries. Interest has declined and people confronted with our curious Euro-Chinese, often the language of harmonisation, simply cannot understand what we are trying to get at. A very good quotation. It comes from Ralf Dahrendorf, undoubtedly the most brilliant of the European Commissioners. He gave that frank opinion in a BBC interview. I love the term "Euro-Chinese"; it is much better than the "Euro-Etruscan" which I used myself. He wrote a series of articles, the authorship of which he never openly acknowledged, but which is an open secret throughout Europe, in that excellent journal Die Zeit. He pointed out that the present Community is a dead end, and in his second article went on to say that the …'first Europe' of the Rome Treaty, in which there are no objective rules that would force the European nations to rescue a problematical agricultural policy by introducing monetary union, or to rescue a problematical economic union by co-ordinated general policies… must be superseded. He called for a second Europe.

But the whole point of this Bill, which we have not been permitted to amend in the slightest degree, is to ossify the first Europe which Dr. Dahrendorf attacked. We have not made, nor been permitted to make, the slightest attempt in the Bill to take any steps whatever to have the second Europe which I might be persuaded by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever)—whom I respect even more than he knows—to support, the second Europe which Dr. Dahrendorf envisages. But the Bill actually ossifies that first Europe by the way in which we are to enter the EEC, as first Europe so roundly condemned by the man who knows far more about it than anyone present—and I insult no one in making that remark.

I turn again to the charge made by Mr. Alan Watson, whose face is so familiar to everyone who watches current affairs programmes on television. He is an enthusiastic, highly literate and very polished advocate of European federalism, but realises that the first Europe is a definite and obnoxious obstacle to the Europe of his dreams and desires.

Mr. Watson points out that, first of all, that one really good thing that the first Europe actually did was to negotiate the Kennedy Round with the Americans, but that it could be done only because the whole apparatus of the Community was in suspended animation and M. Jean Rey was able to make decisions in the negotiations on his own. In other words, M. Rey functioned more as emperor of Europe than as a responsible Commissioner for Europe. [Interruption.] I gather that what I have just said is challenged. It will add a couple of minutes to what I intended to say. This is what Mr. Watson wrote about the Kennedy Round: As the negotiations reached their critical stage in 1967, this became the crux of the matter. It was clearly impossible for Jean Rey to refer back to the council of Ministers at every stage. The negotiations in the small Palais above the Lake at Geneva extended into the small hours of the morning. With hypothesis pitched against hypothesis, by men exhausted but stubborn, Rey had to have the authority to match nuance with nuance, bid with bid, offer with offer, in a matter of minutes, not a matter of days.The climax came after several days of total deadlock. Mr. Wyndham Whyte, then Secretary-General of GATT, offered a compromise. The other main negotiators accepted. It was up to the Common Market, and it was impossible to wait for a meeting of the Council of Ministers. Jean Rey telephoned the French and the Germans from Geneva and then deliberately took the responsibility himself for a decision on behalf of Europe. It was a good decision. It was a decision which in retrospect I welcome.

But what was the consequence of that decision? Mr. Watson went on: Jean Rey knew what he was doing. In that moment when he acted on behalf of Europe, without formal authorisation, he took Europe a measurable distance along the federalist path. That in itself supports the contention that I have made in print and in speech that Europe will not be unified in accordance with the dreams on the Government benches, or the delusions on the Opposition benches, with a democratic Parliament. It can only be done in the way in which M. Jean Rey negotiated the Kennedy Round, just as Europe in the past could be united only by the methods of a Bismark or a Bonaparte.

If anybody has the delusion that a united Europe will be created by a bunch of squabbling, idealistic social democrats sitting in Strasbourg or Luxembourg or anywhere else, he should forget it. There is one way only in which Europe can be united without the dictatorial action of which I think M. Rey's behaviour was a good example, and that would be for the people of Europe themselves to generate an enthusiasm for Europe that transcended all national boundaries and, to some extent, burst apart existing national-based institutions. Do we see such a Europe? I would love to see such a Europe, but I do not.

I end with my final quotation from Mr. Watson: Indeed, by the end of the decade, Europe's disinterest in the Common Market had become so ingrained that millions of Europeans effectively agreed to taxation without representation. The rising cost of the Common Agricultural Policy meant increased national contributions which were never submitted…to national electorates. It is not a dynamic Community that we are entering; it is a bored Community. It is not a Europe which is struggling on its way towards unity; it is a Europe in which many of the old antagonisms have recently revived themselves.