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Joining the EEC

March 25th, 1970

A letter to the Financial Times, the first paragraph of which was published in March 1970.

Paul Lewis (F.T. March 20th) has got to be joking when he suggests that Britain proposed that French be the sole official language of an enlarged EEC including this country.  Are there no limits to the national self-abasement which “informed” opinion is prepared to inflict on the rest of us?  English is the main world language not only because of the first and second British Empires, but because as a language it has enormous advantages of adaptability and subtlety of expression.  Cannot Mr Lewis see that the French objective all along has been to use the power of other members of the EEC to promote the national ambitions of France, and that any wider recognition of the French language as a medium of communication does just that?  We are in fact in competition with the French on the language issue, and our national interests will be served by aiming to make English the most widely used language in any European community.  I can envisage no limits to the resistance which would be made to any Government which attempted to bind our country to a form of French empire with a capital at Versailles (another Lewis “idea”).

No, the real way forward for Britain is to negotiate not to join an EEC based on the 1957 Treaty of Rome which simply does not suit our interests, or those of Germany for that matter, but to negotiate a new Community of Europe treaty.  Britain’s real interests require a free trade area in Europe, excluding only agricultural products, not an elaborate system of official price-fixing, and more urgently, our interests require a new defence treaty which allows for a complete withdrawal of American forces by about 1974, and which recognises the improbability that American cities will ever be exposed to nuclear attack to save European cities from Russian aggression.

These objectives, one economic, the other military should be the basis for negotiations with the Six.  But the major problem confronting Western States in the years ahead is likely to be social.  Here we have everything to lose by any form of political union with other European states.  We have no wish to add to our own prolems France and Italy’s comunist influenced politics, Germany and Holland’s catholic-protestant struggles, Belgium’s language strife, nor Sweden and Denmark’s obsession with pornography.

Both the Continent and ourselves have something to gain from closer association, but each arrangement should be designed to achieve something definite, like Concorde and the centrifuge project, and not be an airy-fairy wish for closer association for its own sake.  Switzerland, a tenth of our size, though anxious for freer trade, is not panicking about exclusion from the EEC and neither should we.