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The issues raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) are important. But we have seen in his speech that underlying his arguments is another issue which is the issue that dominated our discussions before we joined the Community. It is the question of sovereignty and the extent to which our national freedom of action is curtailed or enhanced by membership of the Community. We joined the Community and are a part of it for several reasons.
Our initial instinct in the 1950s was to stay out—to share and admire the goals of the Community and to wish it well, but to believe that we could achieve the same goals on our own. We were a world power. We looked not just to Europe, but across the Atlantic to the United States and across the world to the Commonwealth.
We changed that early 1950s view for several good reasons. We saw the economic and political success of the Six while our standard of living relative to theirs dropped and our world role changed. We saw the importance of the Community as a vehicle for promoting peace and democracy in Europe. I agree with my hon. Friend that NATO has responsibility for the defence of Europe, but to get on with other nations is part of the peace process.
We saw the United States looking to the Pacific, as well as to Europe, in pursuit of her interests, and that within Europe the United States' interests, lay in a relationship with the whole of Europe, not just with Britain in particular. We saw, too, the power of the Community to negotiate collectively trade agreements which none of the members could have achieved on their own. We also saw the extent to which the Community was establishing patterns of political, trade, and economic behaviour to which we inevitably had to conform, but in the determination of which we would play no part so long as we remained outside the EC. Those are the reasons why we joined and why we shall continue as a most active member of the EC as it develops further.
Now we can see new technology and less regulation of trade opening up new opportunities for British firms, so helping to bring greater prosperity. But they also make the world even more interdependent. For such a complex world to work peacefully, not everything can still be done at a national level. For individual nations to prosper, we must agree certain rules and standards in common. That is why we joined the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. For individual citizens to prosper, the goods they buy must be made and distributed in the most economic way, and the companies which employ them must work on the most economic scale.
We must be able to work at the supranational level if we are to promote our national interests within Europe and defend them outside, and we need democratic institutions within which to do so. That is what the Community is for.