best Prime Minister, best MP for EPPing
If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance, there would be no limit to the happiness, to the prosperity and glory which ... its people would enjoy ... We must build a kind of United States of Europe.
We cannot aim at anything less than the Union of Europe as a whole and we look forward with confidence to the day when that Union will be achieved.
The Hague, 1948
national sovereignty is not inviolable, and it may be resolutely diminished for the sake of all men in all the lands finding their way home together.
the Government are right to apply to join the European Economic Community
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
… I have spoken of Europe and of our hope that Britain may become more closely associated with Europe, economically and politically. We must think of Europe and the Commonwealth, not as rivals but as joint pilgrims on the road to peace and freedom.
Leader’s Speech to 1961 Conservative Party Conference:-
The European Economic Community is one of the facts of the modern world. It is there, and its very existence must cause profound changes, and that is just as true whether we go in or whether we stay out…
Western Europe has achieved a remarkable recovery. It is on its way to forming an economic and - in one form or another - a political unity which could, in terms of population, skill and resources, rival the United States or the Soviet Union…
anyone who looks honestly at the history of the first half of this century cannot help feeling that the prospects of peace might have been better if we had played in peacetime as large a part in the affairs of Europe as we - and our Commonwealth partners too - have in war. For this hesitation we have paid a heavy price. Is not that, perhaps the lesson learned from the battlefields we remember, and the comrades we mourn?...
It is true that the Governments of the Six are anxious to move forward from an economic to some form of political union, and we want to play our part in devising these new arrangements.
Leader’s Speech to 1962 Conservative Party Conference
Prime Minister Edward Heath
... here remains the Great Divide that separates us from the leaders of the Labour Party, the divide over the genuine desire to go into Europe. These, then, are the issues which are raised between us today, and let no one say that these differences between the parties do not matter…
... The Labour Government must ... discuss with those who wish in Europe the question of defence and political developments.
Leader’s Speech (Edward Heath) to 1966 Conservative Party Conference:
As long ago as the Brighton Conference of 1961, this Conference and this Party committed itself to the European policy. Throughout those negotiations of two years the great majority of the Party here and in Parliament gave me wholehearted support. We wanted to bring about that unity, for political as well as for economic reasons. We were working for an ideal, an ideal which was important to my generation and to many here, but it was also vital for the youth of the whole of Europe.
And how strongly events since then have shown this to be true, and nowhere more so than in the defeated countries like Germany, where they sought a unity greater than that of the nation State which had failed them both in peace and in war.
... But your commitment and my commitment remains unchanged. There is no doubt where we stand. We no longer need to prove that we are Europeans. That stage is long past. Britain does not need to knock at any man’s door. We are an applicant, but we are not, and we never have been, a supplicant. Our European credentials cannot be challenged by anyone. So we say to the six Governments of the European Community, ‘We are ready when you are ready.’ Having said that, we must now give our time and our energy to building our own strength and advancing our own interests.
Leader’s Speech (Edward Heath) to 1968 Conservative Party Conference:
I think here, where so many of you have heard the debates over the years on Europe, you will agree that from my personal position I have, I think, a close knowledge of what is happening in Europe, of the advantages and disadvantages of this policy, of the possibilities and of the difficulties. I have never hesitated to put them frankly before you and I have urged there should always be the fullest debate.
For that reason I was delighted that we had such an excellent debate here in this Conference. It was quite right that you should take a decision. I welcome that decision, but the effect of it on me is to place an even greater responsibility on my colleagues and myself to ensure that the facts are placed always before you, that we tell you the difficulties as well as the opportunities, and that when we are in government, if the opportunity arises that we can negotiate, then we ensure that we make proper arrangements to deal with the anxieties which are expressed, not only in this Conference, but in the country outside.
... I only just want to say this in conclusion about the European policy. When we talk about political influence, we are not talking about something which is purely a matter for ambassadors and politicians. We are talking about something which affects all our lives as well as the lives of generations to come. The influence of Britain in Europe is an influence for peace and stability in a world always liable to conflict.
When we talk about the advantages for industry, then we are not talking about something remote. What we are talking about is the jobs of the men and women and those at our schools and universities today, the sorts of jobs and the number of jobs they are going to have in the future.
There is no magic solution in Europe, nothing which is going to solve our problems at the stroke of a pen and nothing which will destroy British institutions or imprison us in an alien pattern of life.
What the policy can offer us if we are successful is opportunity, opportunity in Europe and in the world outside.
Leader’s Speech (Edward Heath) to 1971 Conservative Party Conference
...as the enlargement of the Community makes clear beyond doubt, we have all come to recognise our common European heritage, our mutual interests and our European destiny ... Europe is more than Western Europe alone ... What design should we seek for the new Europe? It must be a Europe which is strong and confident within itself ... A Europe alive to its great responsibilities in the common struggle of humanity for a better life ... An end to divisions which have stricken Europeans for centuries. A beginning of another stage in the construction of a new and greater Europe.
Twenty five years ago much of Western Europe lay literally in ruins. Economic and industrial life had come to a standstill. For us here in Britain it was different. We were bruised, we were exhausted, but our economy and our industry remained intact. In Europe they were able again to start from scratch but we had to make do and mend. So it was not surprising when those countries, starting from scratch, first matched and then, in unity, overtook Britain in economic performance and industrial effort. A new world was already emerging; and it is to the credit of our Party that from an early stage we recognised that fact. Later we tried to join the united and prospering efforts of the major countries of Western Europe, but then Britain was foiled in the attempt by the veto of President de Gaulle. We tried to build the firm foundations for a modern, industrial society based on faster expansion and higher real wages and better living standards…
This Conference will long be remembered for one decisive vote. You have decided overwhelmingly to accept the Government’s recommendation, now that the terms are known, that Britain should become a member of the European Community.
Just ten years ago I came straight from making the opening statement in Paris at the beginning of the first negotiations, to this Conference where I received your endorsement. I came, of course, as Lord Privy Seal, not as Edward Heath as I now am.
You can imagine with what admiration I have followed Geoffrey Rippon in the skill and determination with which he has handled the negotiations. And with what happiness I greeted the result last Wednesday ...
It is in that spirit that I want to speak this morning of the changes which, even as we sit here, are altering the shape of the world as it has been familiar to us for the last 25 years. If we look at that history, one salient fact immediately confronts us. Throughout that period, we and other countries of Western Europe have survived and prospered to a large extent thanks to the help and protection of the United States. Never in modern times has a great Power used its energy and its generosity with such effect to protect the interests of its friends. Everyone in this hall and in our Party would pay tribute to the statesmanship which successive American Administrations have shown.
Some of us, however, have for many years foreseen that this was not a state of affairs which could for ever be expected to endure. We have urged the countries of Europe to bestir themselves so as to secure their own defence and their own prosperity, because the time would come when this burden would not be carried in the same way by others on their behalf.
I must tell you today that the change which I and others foresaw is now coming upon us. The United States, faced with deep-seated problems at home and abroad, is working - while in contact with its allies - towards direct arrangements with the Soviet Union and with Communist China.
Even more important, the United States is acting drastically to protect its own balance of payments and its own trading position against the erosions which they have suffered. Everyone concerned with trade and finance knows that rough winds are beginning to blow across the world. It is in the interests of this country that trade should be as free and unrestricted as possible. We must do our utmost to prevent the development of a protectionist trade war. That is our interest, and that is the aim which every British Government should pursue.
With this aim in mind, we must consider today how British interests in this field can best be protected and advanced. I must tell you plainly that if in this changed world we were going to be forced to stand alone, then the prospects for the jobs and the livelihood of our people would be bleak indeed. We all know that decisions on world trade and world finance are not academic for the people of this country. These decisions vitally affect the well-being and the prosperity, the jobs and livelihood, of everyone in these islands.
If we were to condemn ourselves to isolation, then we would find that these decisions in world trade and monetary affairs, affecting us so closely, were taken not by ourselves but by others in the world wielding greater economic power - by the United States, by the European Community and by Japan. But fortunately we are not so condemned. Fortunately, this change in world affairs has come upon us at exactly the time when we have the opportunity to associate ourselves with the other countries of the European Community in full membership, and by associating ourselves now we can work together to protect effectively our own interests and theirs in a way which would not be possible were we to remain alone.
It is not by luck that this opportunity has come about. It has been created through the foresight and the statesmanship of those who have preceded me as Leaders of this Party and of this country. It was Mr. Churchill who, 25 years ago, proclaimed in Zurich the need for a Europe growing together in unity. It was Mr. Macmillan who put in hand our first application to join the Community. And it is your Government, elected in June last year, which has finally carried these negotiations through to decisive success.
The day of need which Sir Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan so clearly perceived is now upon us. No longer are the problems which they foresaw lodged safely in some distant future. They are upon us now, urgent but not insoluble. They can be tackled and solved precisely because of the courage and loyalty of our Party in supporting our European policy with such consistency over the last ten years. Now that the need is upon us, we are prepared for it. We can join with others in Europe and exert ourselves to work out the Common European policies which will assure the future of every one of us: policies governing our dealings with the rest of the world, our trade, our finance and eventually our defence. That is what statesmanship means, not shifting from one belief to another as a result of some dubious calculation of brief political advantage, not looking simply to the headlines of next week or next month.
Our duty as a Conservative Government is to look to the future and to the lives of future generations. This is the habit which your Government has inherited from its Conservative predecessors, this is the task which we are wholly determined to carry through.
... Do you suppose it is just a coincidence that today - for the first time in a long time - Britain’s voice is being heard in the world again, not as a plaintive whisper in the corridors of power but as a voice that speaks what it knows and knows what is has learned from history? That is why Europe needs us. We speak our mind. We have something to say, and once more when we give our word the world believes us. Today that new world looks at us with new eyes. And there are plenty of new things for it to see and envy. It sees a country that is doing more to protect its weak and sick, doing more to reward effort with incentive, more to safeguard its environment and therefore its future ...
It is time for us now to walk out into the light to find a new place, a new Britain in this new world. That is the choice that history offers us today. It is the kind of chance that only comes, if it ever comes, once in a lifetime. Let history record that when we were shown the way we took the way and walked out to meet our destiny.
Leader’s Speech (Edward Heath) to 1969 Conservative Party Conference:
In the immediate future we must be confident enough to look ahead. For our future is now about to take on a new dimension. Over years you as a party have always encouraged and supported us in our European policy. You have always by substantial majorities urged us whenever and wherever possible to move towards partnership with the other members of our Continent. We are no longer talking of possibilities; we are talking now of a great achievement. Within a few years how incredibly short-sighted will appear our opponents who urge us to throw our achievement away, particularly when they do so simply because the credit for that achievement belongs to your Conservative Government and not to them.
At the Summit Meeting next week my aim will be to join with our partners, the other Heads of Government, in settling the lines on which our new Europe will grow and work together in the next few years.
In this new partnership we have a chance as a great people, as a formidable nation, as a shaper and moulder of the modern world, to get back into action, to take up a part which I believe we have a unique capacity to fill. This contemporary world of ours is, after all, the world which Britain in the last four hundred years has profoundly influenced. When the cockleshell boats set off with a Drake or a Cabot their new commerce united the whole world. Their settlements sprang up in every continent. The new markets stimulated our science and technology to launch a whole new industrial way of life. The institutions we adopted - of enterprise and personal freedom and social responsibility - broke open the ancient world of absolute government.
For an offshore island of a few million people, it was and remains a staggering achievement. We did not secure it by staying at home. In fact, there is hardly a great movement of post-renaissance man, be it national statehood, scientific endeavour, economic expansion or worldwide discovery that has not been profoundly marked at every stage by British energy and endeavour and backed by the hard slogging dedication of the British people.
If we realise today how large is the part we have played in moulding the modern world, it is above all because that same world now cries out to us for even more drastic and constructive change. For every one of the colossal achievements of the last four centuries, there are now shadows of danger across us on an equal scale - the problem of keeping the peace and how to break down distrust between East and West without taking risks with our own defences. The economic problems – in Europe, how to transform the grim cities and impoverished countryside which years of uneven development have left behind; in the world, how to bring hope and betterment to the two-thirds of humanity who live in poverty.
The problems of the environment - and, here again, let us remember that these problems respect no frontiers. This week’s territorial waters in the Baltic are next week’s waters off Aberdeen. The pesticides carried up the Rhine can be washed off down the Thames. The sulphurs and particles in Britain’s air fall in dirty rain on the Continent of Europe.
This today is the contemporary world of economic imbalance, of environmental insecurity, of national rivalry, and yet at the same time global involvement. It is the world which we have helped to create and which we now inherit. We have all been, as it were, part of these problems. Now we can be part of the solution.
This is the context of our entry into Europe. This alone makes sense of what we have to do. For these problems do not respect frontiers, and neither should frontiers restrict our efforts to solve them.
I see in these immense problems, not a block to British action and ambition, but a deep and satisfying challenge to carry on the work of world building in which Britain in the past has played so great a part. As we reach the last quarter of the twentieth century, we are beginning to see so clearly where the paths of renewal lie. They lead us towards a new community with our European neighbours and, through this community, to a new epoch of British service and influence on the whole society of man.
Leader’s Speech (Edward Heath) to 1972 Conservative Party Conference:
It is not so long ago since Europe was the most dangerous and the most unpredictable of all the continents. Think of what was happening in Europe thirty years ago. Thirty years is a long time in the life of an individual: it is not very long in the history of our continent. Thirty years ago the lands and cities of Europe were attacked or bombarded - not by forces from outside but by tanks and planes coming from inside Europe itself.
The situation today is so different that we take it too much for granted. The danger of war between the countries of Europe has disappeared. The legacy of fear and hatred has almost vanished. Our countries are coming steadily closer together year by year.
Only a few years ago who would have thought that Britain, France, Germany, Italy and our other partners would have been able to agree on a common European identity; and as a result of this to work out a common European policy towards our principal ally, the United States?
Yet that is exactly what was achieved last month at the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the European Community in Copenhagen. They agreed on a British proposal as a result of a British initiative. That can form the basis of the future relationship between the European Community and other countries across the Atlantic. We have at last started to build the twin pillars on which our friendship can rest.
Are we not becoming just a trifle blasé if we take political agreement of this kind for granted? To have all our countries with their different histories, their traditional rivalries, sitting round the same table agreeing on a common purpose - that in itself in Copenhagen was a piece of history. But let there be no doubt about one thing.
This success, this latest coming together of the nations of Europe, would not have been possible if Britain had not been a member of the European Community. This is what your Government have achieved, with your repeated encouragement and support.
That is what the Labour Party would throw away - just like a child discarding a borrowed toy. They knew the truth well enough when they were in Government. They saw clearly enough where the interests of Britain lay. Now they are jealous that we have succeeded where they failed. And because of their jealousy they are willing to put at risk the prosperity of our people. They are willing to plunge Europe back again into uncertainty and endless debate.
Of course we are not satisfied with the European Community as it stands today. I do not know anyone in the Community who believes that it has reached its final form, or indeed its perfect form. The whole nature of the Community is that it should constantly change and develop according to the changing needs of its peoples. It is not a Community of the Governments for the bureaucrats - it is the Community of the peoples and for the peoples of Europe.
Should there be changes in the Common agricultural policy? Certainly. And it is precisely because we are now members of the Community that it has been agreed that plans for change should be set in hand, and we owe a great deal to our Minister of Agriculture, Joe Godber, for the part that he played in those matters.
Should there be changes in the way the Community spends its money and in its control over it? Most certainly. And it is precisely because we are now members of the Community that we have already reached agreement on the setting up of the Regional Development Fund from which Scotland, Wales and the regions of England will benefit. We can pay tribute to John Davies and Christopher Chataway for the part they have played in the negotiations over the Regional Development Fund.
Should there he changes in the democratic working of the Community? Most certainly. This is precisely why Peter Kirk and his colleagues, with my full agreement and that of my colleagues, have set in hand various proposals in the European Parliament. Their very presence in Strasbourg has revitalised that institution, because they have brought to it characteristics from the Westminster Parliament itself.
Should there be changes in the way our Governments work together for greater unity? At the Summit Conference of Heads of Government in Paris a year ago, we laid down the general lines of policy for the Community for the rest of this decade until 1980. We visualised another meeting in 1976 to review what had been achieved. Progress this year is already considerable. By the end of the year major decisions will have to be taken over a very wide field including economic and monetary union, and social and regional policy. But the total programme of work in the Community which has to be handled by the Council of Ministers, on which the Foreign Secretary sits, is immense.
I believe that already some of my colleagues as Heads of Government feel the need for us to get together regularly without large staffs so that we can jointly guide the Community along the path we have already set. I would like to see the Heads of Government of the member countries of the Community meeting together, perhaps twice a year, as I have said, alone and without large staffs, with the President of the Commission being present, as he was at the Summit, on matters which concern the Commission. I would hope that my partners would respond to an initiative of this kind.
Our purpose in meeting together would be to lay down the broad direction of European policy, to keep up the momentum towards greater unity in foreign policy, to help forward the working out of common internal policies within the Community; and so to agree upon the strategic issues facing the Community as to avoid the damaging controversies which so often appear to the public to dog the deliberations in Brussels.
Of course, you cannot bring about the changes that we want by sulking at a distance, as the Labour Party does. We shall not bring about the changes we want by feeble blustering of the kind we heard from Blackpool last week. We shall achieve these changes by persuading our partners that they are necessary if we are to achieve our common purpose.
That is the meaning of the Community. That is what our European Community is all about. The Community is on the move, and Britain as a new member is providing a great deal of the impetus.
Wherever we have begun to make our contribution the reaction from our European partners is the same: ‘Thank goodness you are here,’ they say. ‘This is what we have waited for. We have been watching you do business for years. We have admired your institutions. We know you have problems, just as we had at the beginning of the Community. Maybe we can help to solve them. Now that we are together at last we can get something done.’
Leader’s Speech (Edward Heath) to 1973 Conservative Party Conference:
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
That this House approves the recommendation of Her Majesty's Government to continue Britain's Membership of the Community as set out in the White Paper on the Membership of the European Community (Command No. 5999)
Mrs Margaret Thatcher MP (Finchley): Yesterday the Prime Minister opened the fourth major debate in 14 years on Britain's membership of the EEC. On each of the first three occasions the Prime Minister began the day as an enthusiastic advocate of the cause that his Government were proposing. This time the Prime Minister chose to open with a very low-key speech leaving out most of the broader issues or dwelling on them only briefly.
We are aware of the right hon. Gentleman's problems. If we were not aware of them yesterday, we have been made aware of them in Question Time today. At present he has to rely more on his political opponents than on his alleged political friends to secure the decision which he considers right for Britain.
It has been suggested in some quarters that my party might find it tempting to withdraw support in order to embarrass the Prime Minister. But we have voted consistently for Britain in Europe by a large majority and would not think of performing W-turns on this issue.
In 1961, when The Right Hon. Harold Macmillan first came to the House with the idea that we should make an application to the Common Market for membership, the Labour Party was lukewarm in the debate. Indeed, it did not vote upon the main question. On that occasion the Conservative and Liberal Parties voted 313 for the application. There were only five votes against, of which one was Conservative.
In 1967, when the Prime Minister made his application, 488 Hon. Members voted for the application, and only 62 against, including 26 Conservatives.
In 1971, on the result of the application, 356 Hon. Members voted for it and 244 against, which included some of ours.
Throughout, our record has been consistently that the vast majority of the Conservative Party have voted for the European idea in support of making applications, even when some of the Right Hon. Gentleman's party did not vote in support of the first application, and again we have supported the idea of Britain in the European Community.
The Prime Minister dealt mainly with the renegotiations and the Labour Party manifesto of 1974. I do not believe that this issue will be decided on those matters. The results set out in the White Paper are difficult to assess and very complicated. I believe that the matter will be decided on the broader issues associated with membership, and it is this argument which I propose to deploy today. I will deal, first, with the case for being in the Common Market, then the case for staying in, and finally the alternatives.
First, the case for being in the Common Market. I believe, with a number of Hon. Members who spoke yesterday, that the paramount case for being in is the political case for peace and security. It is taken for granted now that Western Europe, which has been the centre of troubles within our lifetime, will not embark again upon its own destruction. I think that we should not too readily take that for granted but for the tremendous efforts and constructive purpose which have led to those nations working together in the Common Market.
One of the measures of the success of the Community that we now take for granted is essentially security. I think that security is a matter not only of defence but of working together in peacetime on economic issues which concern us and of working closely together on trade, work and other social matters which affect all our peoples. The more closely we work together in that way, the better our security will be from the viewpoint of the future of our children.
I believe that people today recognise two quite different needs. First, there is the need to be part of some smaller group to which we can belong and feel and know we belong. We see that daily in a certain amount of revulsion against size. [Interruption] I hear sounds coming from a certain direction. The country with perhaps the greatest devolution of power—Germany—is one of the most active members of the Common Market. So there is this need which we must all recognise and take into account in our policies and in the institutions which we fashion.
The second need is the knowledge that it is only when we get and work together that we can achieve the larger objectives which we arc seeking to achieve. It seems to me that the prospect of the Common Market fulfils both those needs —the need to identify with one's own nation and country and the need to work together as a community and an alliance of nations for the well-being and betterment of mankind.
I believe that these two needs are met by countries being in the Common Market and working together for the larger purpose. Therefore, my first reason for believing that we should be in the Common Market is peace and security.
The second reason concerns what I believe to be most important—access to secure sources of food supplies. We had quite a lot of argument and debate yesterday about food in the Common Market. I think that we have to view that against the background of the world's food reserves and the amount of food that this country needs to import. We need to import at least half our food to survive. Taking into account the import of fertilisers and foodstuffs, it comes slightly above the 50 per cent. mark. The figures were given in the Lubbock Memorial Lecture at Oxford recently.
Against the background of that need we must remember that the world's food reserves are now smaller in proportion to its consumption than they have ever been. We now have to live from the products of one harvest to the products of the next. The reserves are not sufficient, or the same, as they used to be in the past. In these circumstances, it is only prudent and sensible for the Government to obtain steady access to the Community, which could be self-sufficient in many agricultural products, and which, because of its combined bargaining power, is in a far better position than any single country to negotiate with the rest of the world.
We are the most vulnerable country with our need for food imports. Therefore, it is vital that we secure access to continuous and good sources of food supply. In some years supplies from the Continent will be more expensive; in other years they will be cheaper. But the great benefit is access and greater stability of supplies.
Obviously we had some debate about prices. I notice that the White Paper is very modest in its claim. But undoubtedly the common agricultural policy has not had the effect upon food prices which many opponents of the Market thought it would have. One has only to look at the latest official Government reply inHansard of 17th March to see that the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection said: “the overall level of food prices in the United Kingdom is not at present significantly affected one way or the other by our membership of the European Community. The right hon. Lady took the general overall picture. Of course, some commodities are up and others are down in price.
The third main reason why we should belong to the Community is that it is the largest trading and aiding unit in the world. It is larger than the United States; larger in the amount of goods which it imports than the United States; larger than the United States in aid. It is a very great advantage for this country to be a part of that very much larger trading bloc. This has become very obvious to other countries. We can appreciate that by looking at the number of them which wish to negotiate direct with the Community, no longer so much with the separate countries. Country after country wishes to obtain access to the Community itself, to the most powerful market in the world. They are far more interested in the Community than they ever would be in supplying us alone.
Furthermore, as time goes on we are more likely to get access to the raw materials we need to fabricate our exports through bargaining as part of a community than we are ever to achieve by bargaining on our own. It is part of the same economic argument. One needs access to secure supplies of food; one needs access to secure supplies of raw materials—particularly if one has to import them to survive.
At present, on the trading point, half of our trade is with Western Europe as a whole. Through our membership of the Common Market we have preferential access to all those countries, which we should not otherwise have. Those countries comprise our eight EEC partners, the seven remaining EFTA countries, with which we have free trade agreements by virtue of belonging to the Community, and Greece, Turkey and Spain, which have Community preferential agreements. Therefore, on the broad strategic trade and aid argument we have preferential access to Western Europe, with which we conduct 50 per cent. of our trade. I doubt very much whether we should be able to get that on our own.
Yesterday we had a good deal of argument about the trade deficit. Indeed, the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) had a good deal to say about that, as indeed had the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay). The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), substantially answered the question last night, but unfortunately —[Interruption] I said earlier that the Government had more friends on the Opposition side of the House than on their side. I am being proved right with almost every interjection.
On the trade deficit we were challenged. What right hon. and hon. Gentlemen did not say was that about four-fifths of the trade deficit came from the supply of about five different commodities to this country. Had we not bought them from Europe we would have had to buy them at the same or increased prices elsewhere.
First, on food, including dairy products, which we bought from Europe because many of the products were lower in price than they were in our traditional markets, to substitute our traditional markets for Europe would have meant that the adverse balance would have been worse than it was. Secondly, fuel accounted for part of the deficit. Because of the increased oil prices, we bought fuel products from the EEC—we had to buy some of them because of lack of refining capacity—and they went up in price, so that was a neutral factor in relation to the deficit. On plastics and steel we had an adverse balance. Again, we had to have some of these commodities because we could not supply them. We could not supply the plastics partly because of the Flixborough disaster, and we could not supply the steel because the British Steel Corporation was not able to supply enough last year. If we had not got those supplies from Europe we should have had to buy them elsewhere.
On all of these things, membership of the Community did not have an adverse effect on our balance of trade; in fact, it helped us, in so far as some of these things cost us less in Europe than they would have cost elsewhere. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the balance of payments?"] The balance of payments is worse under the present Government than it has ever been under any other. Furthermore, we are borrowing more under the present Government than we have ever borrowed under any other.
The fourth main strategic reason for us being in the Common Market is to provide a world role for Britain. We on the Opposition side of the House have always attached great importance to a world role. On our own, as a nation of 55 million, we would have some voice, but not enough. Traditionally, Britain has always been part of a larger grouping, and was listened to partly because of that grouping as well as because of our own particular attributes. It used to be the Commonwealth, but since then most of the Commonwealth countries have become independent and have set up their own trading preferences and arrangements. That did not happen only after our accession to the Common Market. For years and years the Commonwealth preferences were being eroded, as those of us who tried to sell to many of the Commonwealth countries knew. Naturally, they set up their own industries, and naturally they protected them in the early stages. That meant that steadily our markets were closing down. I watched that process year after year. It became vital that as those markets closed down, so we should be able to open up markets of equivalent or greater capacity elsewhere.
The Community opens windows on the world for us which since the war have been closing. It is already strong and already a major influence in the world.
Those are the four big strategic points for being a member of the Community. They are as strong now as they ever have been.
There are also additional points now for staying in the Community which perhaps did not exist at the beginning. First, the Commonwealth itself now wants us to stay in. I know of no adverse comment on this matter. All the comments that have been made, whether by the Prime Minister of Australia, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Prime Minister of Canada, the Indian Minister of Commerce, or the Jamaican Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, have been to the effect that they wish us to stay in. This is indeed a further powerful reason for staying in.
The second reason is that we can begin to quantify some of the benefits. The document produced by the Britain in Europe Group, which sets out 176 examples of grants and loans made in the last two years by the Community institutions to this country, is most effective. It sets out specific examples of grants and loans totalling some £290 million, which have gone all over the country.
One can point to a large number of tangible benefits in the form of grants coming to this country. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party enumerated a number of separate items yesterday. They vary from very large grants of some £34 million or £35 million to small grants such as grants to the families affected by the Flixborough chemical plant explosion. The EEC gave grants to the planners and grants to agriculture. It gave one grant after another to which one can point; and, of whichever area one is speaking, all this came from the EEC.
Another reason for staying in is that our partners have done everything possible to be both co-operative and constructive. It has been noticeable how they have helped this Government through all their renegotiation difficulties. I believe that on the whole the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary did a good job in the negotiations, and so far as they have obtained improved terms we are delighted and hope that those, too, will help to keep Britain a member of the Common Market. My Right Hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and the Border (Mr. Whitelaw) said yesterday that he believed that renegotiation is a continuous process. It was my right hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies), I believe, who described the Common Market as almost a non-stop negotiating machine. Of course, that is likely to be so in any community which is an organic, living community. It is constantly developing the whole time, constantly responding to the interests of its members.
The Right Hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) indicated a moment ago a certain amount of scepticism about the total amount of grants and loans, but it is quite clear from the White Paper that our calculations, made two or three years ago, about the effects of the Common Market on our Budget were wrong. It is equally difficult to try to make precise forecasts of the sums involved here when we are looking to the future. All we know is that the figures given in the White Paper show that this year, when we were expecting to pay a net contribution of some £165 million, our net contribution turned out to be only £31 million; so our calculations were wrong. The result has been that we have contributed far less to the Community budget than we had expected to contribute. That is another plus for Britain.
On the common agricultural policy, despite what the hon. Gentleman has said, that has not had as adverse an effect on world food prices as he and some of his hon. Friends, and a number of other people, feared at the time it was negotiated. But, in fact, there are very good reasons for believing that the agricultural policy will gradually become more consumer-oriented than it has been in the past. It is natural that as a country has fewer people working in agriculture and more working in the manufacturing industries, its policies will become more directed towards the consumer than towards the agricultural producer; but I and a number of my hon. Friends would hold very strongly that those who work in agricultural production should get just as good a living as those who work in producing manufactured goods.
Another good reason for staying in is the effect that there would be on investment and jobs if we were to pull out. Again, this is very difficult to quantify.
Obviously, quite a number of multinational companies will prefer to invest in Europe rather than here if we are not a member of the Common Market. A number of companies here have already indicated that they feel that if we were to withdraw there would be a loss of jobs. Firms like GKN, Lucas and Vauxhall, and a number of people in the chemical industry, have indicated that if we were to withdraw investment would not be forthcoming here; and in their view it would have an adverse effect on jobs.—[Interruption] I assume that the Hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is interested in getting investment, even overseas, if it helps us to provide jobs in areas where jobs are needed.
The last reason for staying in is that it would be traumatic—to use the Foreign Secretary's own expression—to come out. When we went in we knew exactly what we were going into. We had had very powerful negotiations, under my Right Hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), over a period of two or more years and knew exactly the conditions we were to face when we went in.
If we were now to withdraw, it would be a leap in the dark. We should not have any idea of the trading conditions into which we were coming out, or of the effect on sterling. It is not a genuine alternative. A genuine alternative would be to have two sets of negotiations and choose between them; but that would not be possible. We knew what we were going into because of the careful negotiations. If we withdraw we have no idea of what alternative trading arrangements we shall be able to secure. Quite a number of people have made a different suggestion, that perhaps we could return to EFTA. We are already a member of the free trade area by virtue of being a member of the Common Market; and if we were out every EFTA country would have to secure EEC permission because of the free trade agreements. Secondly, we would be a market of only 40 million, which is hardly comparable to a market of 200 million in the EEC. Thirdly, agreements on EFTA are particularly tough on rules of origin, and those in themselves, in the way they operate, could have an adverse effect on some of our trade, particularly in motorcar components.
Having been through some 60 pages of the rules of origin one understands the difficulties associated with them. As Hon. Members will know, there are provisions covering certain sensitive products in EFTA agreements under which tariff barriers have gone down, particularly in textiles, with the EEC. Those barriers would be erected again. So even if we could get into EFTA, that would be no answer to our problems. A second alternative would be to have a free trade agreement with the Community. The first thing that occurs to one on this is that a time when one has just broken a treaty is not, frankly, the best time to ask for another, particularly when one is a country of a similar size to other countries in the Common Market and one's products are such that one competes with many of the others.
Many people may say that Norway did so, but she got agreement before she went in; and Norway is a market of only 4 million people with an economy quite different from ours. Any such arrangement would require protracted negotiations which would probably follow the general lines of those agreed with other EFTA countries, and again there would be sensitive products. Secondly, the clauses and articles dealing with State aid to nationalised industries are, if anything, slightly tougher in the free trade area agreements with the EEC than they are in the initial EEC agreement. That EEC agreement specified certain grants that were compatible with the treaty. The free trade area agreement does not repeat those particular grants; and, as I have said, it is slightly
tougher on State aid to nationalised industries than the EEC treaty ever was.
The choice is whether to be outside the Community and yet have to accept everything which it decides on trading provisions, including standards and safety provisions and prices of steel, or whether to stay in the Community and have an influence over all those decisions which will seriously and closely affect the whole of our industrial life.
I hope that our economy will soon be in better shape and overcome the adverse balance of trade, and I am sure that the Prime Minister shares that view. We cannot assume that we would have an alternative area to go to, and the result may be that we should have to go it alone. There being no certain alternatives, it would seem that we have very carefully to consider keeping the arrangements and agreements we already possess before going completely into the unknown. Being in the EEC will not, of course, solve all our economic problems, or anything like it. Some of them are home grown and have to be dealt with by us. There are the problems of inflation in particular which we have to cope with ourselves, whether we are in or out of the Community.
For Britain to abrogate a treaty is bad for Britain, bad for our relations with the rest of the world and bad for our future trading relationships. I believe that Britain has always played a major role in the world and still has a major role to play. I do not believe it can play that role to best advantage on its own, and if we wish to give our children maximum peace and security in a very uncertain world, our best course of action is to stay in the Common Market.
Speech as Leader of the Opposition in House of Commons on 8 April 1975 about European Community membership by The Rt Hon Margaret Thatcher MP
Mr. Chairman [Edward Heath] and colleagues. It is especially appropriate that we should open the Conservative campaign to keep Britain in Europe under your Chairmanship. Because you have done more than anyone else for the Conservative cause in Europe, and to see that Britain's place is in Europe. Naturally, it's with some temerity that the pupil speaks before the master, because you know more about it than any of the rest of us. I think there are four main reasons for Britain staying in the community. First, the community gives us peace and security in a free society. The peace and security denied to the past two generations. Second, the community gives us access to secure sources of food supply. And this is vital to us, a country which has to import half of what we need. Third, the community does more trade and gives more aid than any other group in the world, and fourth, the community gives us the opportunity to represent the Commonwealth in Europe. A commonwealth which wants us to stay in, and has said so, and the community wants us to stay in and has shown it to be so.I welcome this opportunity to launch the Conservative campaign to keep Britain in Europe.
It is not surprising that I, as Leader of the Conservative Party, should wish to give my wholehearted support to this campaign, for the Conservative Party has been pursuing the European vision almost as long as we have existed as a Party.
It was Disraeli who said: "I assume also that no great power would shrink from its responsibilities ... if that country from a perverse interpretation of its insular geographical position, turns an indifferent ear to the feelings and fortunes of continental Europe, such a course would, I believe, only end in it becoming an object of general plunder. "So long as the power and advice of England are felt in the Councils of Europe, peace I believe will be maintained, and maintained for a long period."
And, of course, that is right. We are inextricably part of Europe. Neither Mr. Foot nor Mr. Benn nor anyone else will ever be able to take us "out of Europe", for Europe is where we are and where we have always been.
It is a fact that there has been peace in Europe for the last quarter of a century, and for that alone I am grateful; that my children have not been embroiled in a European conflict as were the children of the previous two generations.
Nor do I think that we should take this peace too much for granted, for it has been secured by the conscious and concerted effort of nations to work together.
We are part of Europe. It was Churchill who, at the Congress of Europe in 1948, said: "The movement for European unity must be a positive force, deriving its strength from our sense of common spiritual values. "It is a dynamic expression of democratic faith, based upon moral conceptions and inspired by a sense of mission ..."
And as Harold Macmillan, who made Britain's first application to join the Community, said: "We are European, geographically and culturally and we cannot, even if we would, disassociate ourselves from Europe".
That vision of Europe took a leap into reality on the 1st of January 1972 [sic] when, [ Edward Heath] Mr. Chairman, due to your endeavours, enthusiasm and dedication Britain joined the European Community.
* The Community gives us peace and security in a free society, a peace and security denied to the past two generations.
* The Community gives us access to secure sources of food supplies. This is vital to us, a country which has to import half of what we need.
* The Community does more trade and gives more aid than any group in the world.
* The Community gives us the opportunity to represent the Commonwealth in Europe. The Commonwealth want us to stay in and has said so.
The Community wants us.
Conservatives must give a clear lead and play a vigorous part in the campaign to keep Britain in Europe to honour the treaties which you, sir, signed in Britain's name.
We must do this, even though we dislike referenda. We must support the [Harold Wilson] Prime Minister in this, even though we fight the Government on other issues.
We must play our full part in ensuring that Conservative supporters say "Yes to Europe".
In particular, there is a duty on Conservative Members of Parliament who believe in and voted for Britain's continuing membership of the Community to play a leading role in their own constituencies during the campaign.
Members must give a lead both by their words and by their example.
I note that a few left-wing politicians have been talking as if this campaign is about whether we should JOIN the European Community.
It is not. We have been members for two and a half years.
It is a question of whether we should leave.
But for Britain to leave would mean denouncing a Treaty.
Britain does not break Treaties.
It would be bad for Britain, bad for our relations with the rest of the world and bad for any future treaty on trade we may need to make.
As Harold Macmillan said recently: "We used to stand for good faith. That is the greatest strength of our commerce overseas. And we are now being asked to tear up a Treaty into which we solemnly entered".
The choice is clear.
We can play a role in developing Europe, or we can turn our backs on the Community.
By turning our backs we would forfeit our right to influence what happens in the Community.
But what happens in the Community will inevitably affect us.
The European Community is a powerful group of nations.
With Britain as a member, it is more powerful; without Britain it will still be powerful.
We can play a leading role in Europe, but if that leadership is not forthcoming Europe will develop without Britain.
Britain, if she denounced a treaty, cannot then complain if Europe develops in conflict with Britain's interests...
It is a myth that the Community is simply a bureaucracy with no concern for the individual.
The entire staff of the Commission is about 7,000—smaller than that of the Scottish Office.
It is a myth that our membership of the Community will suffocate national tradition and culture.
Are the Germans any less German for being in the Community, or the French any less French? Of course they are not!
It seems to me to display an amazing lack of self-confidence in Britain on the part of some people, that they think that, whereas no other nation in the Community has lost its national character, Britain in some way will.
These points and others must be answered—on the public platform—on the doorstep.
When referendum day comes there may be some who do not want to vote. But no one can opt out of this decision. It is a decision that will affect us all. It is a decision that will affect future generations.
It is a decision in which all should participate to secure our future in a free society.
We must act to defend our children's future as those generations before us acted to protect ours.
For hundreds of years the peoples of Britain have been writing history. Do we want future generations
to continue to write history or are they simply going to have to read it.
If we fail, they will read how we broke faith with both the present and the past.
If we fail and the British people vote ‘No’ to the European Community, they will read how there was a defeat for co-operation between nations, and how there was a victory for the tribunes of the Left.
They will read how extremism won over commonsense. For it is purely common sense to belong to a community working together in peace on economic and political issues that concern us all.
It is purely commonsense to have access to secure sources of food supplies, when as a nation we have to import half our food.
It is surely commonsense to belong to the Community that is the largest trading and aiding unit in the world, and play our part in that Community.
It is surely commonsense for Britain to continue to play a part in the Council of Europe.
It is purely commonsense that we should now listen also to the Commonwealth—those Nations who twice this century, have come to Britain's aid to defend democracy in Europe. Not one of them now want us to leave. The Commonwealth wants us to stay in. Britain has made a vital contribution to the past. She has a contribution to make to the future. It will be bigger in Europe than alone.
Leader’s Speech (Margaret Thatcher) to Conservative Group for Europe (opening Conservative referendum campaign) 16 April 1975