Britain, the United States and the Common Market

July 19, 1961

Report Outline
Pressures on Britain to Join Common Market
Great Britain and European Unification
Obstacles to Entry into Common Market
Proposals to Broaden Present Market

Pressures on Britain to Join Common Market

Complexity of Problems Confronting Britsh

A momentous decision confronts Great Britain: Shall it break with ancient tradition to join the continental powers of Western Europe in an economic union that may one day become a political union? Or shall it hold fast to its position as an island nation, leader of a world-wide commonwealth whose members have close economic ties and close ties of sentiment, one with another? The question is growing urgent because Britain faces a deep-seated economic crisis. While the country is currently prosperous, the exports by which it lives are lagging and its industrial production is not expanding as rapidly as that of European rivals. Meanwhile, lively economic progress among member countries of the European Economic Community or Common Market emphasizes the disparity of the British position.

The seemingly obvious solution of the problem would be for Britain to join the Common Market and thereby put British manufacturers in position to compete for continental markets on equal terms with French, German, and other manufacturers. But the answer is not so simple. For nearly 30 years, members of the British Commonwealth have enjoyed trade preferences in the British market which, as matters stand now, would be lost if the United Kingdom went into the European Economic Community. Britain's subsidized farmers likewise would be adversely affected. And the British have commitments to other members of the European Free Trade Association, a group that was formed after failure of London's initial effort to come to terms with the Common Market.

Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's government cannot ignore the interests of these groups. The trouble is that leaders of the European Economic Community have not been disposed to make the compromises that would be needed to safeguard those interests. They have indicated that Britain must accept the Common Market as it is or stay out Whether the pressure of events, in Great Britain or elsewhere, will in time contribute to solution of the problem remains for the future to unfold. It has been suggested that the question, now or soon, may involve the unity of the West, and that to preserve that unity the European Economic Community should be expanded into an Atlantic Economic Community, taking in not only Britain but also the United States and Canada. However that may be, the factors involved in the more limited question of British entry into the Common Market are themselves so extensive and diverse as to make plain how difficult will be the ultimate decision.

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