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What politically motivated the three applications for membership of the European Community?


1)      Intro

2)      Background to EEC –

a)      grew from steel community.

b)      Functional. Monnet.

c)      Ain was to make the production in Europe more efficient

3)      Why did not apply –

a)      went against the ideology of free trade

b)      imperial links

c)      would not get control

d)      Got into trouble with France in Suez.

4)      Why did apply

a)      did not turn out to be too supranational

b)      did not like NATO

c)      USA pressure – did not want eec to become inward looking

d)      economic decline – imperial trade not sufficiently growing

5)      Why needed three applications

a)      france against – trojan horse

6)      Conclusion

a)      Wanted to be part, joined too late. similar thing with euro at the moment.

European Community has become the centrepiece of national policy making. It is, however, relatively recent thing, having been around for less than 40 years. This essay looks mainly into the first years of EEC, when it was created without UK, and then how the UK subsequently joined the club on her third attempt. It was quite clear that the EEC carried short-term economic advantages, and I will not go into these. Rather, I will look at the political motives of joining. In order to understand the political motives I will first describe what EEC was and then why the UK did not apply initially. I will then go on to discuss the political reasons for application, mainly to do with the USA pressure and problems with Commonwealth trade. I will then look at why France vetoed the application and why de Gaulle viewed UK membership as USA Trojan horse. Finally, I will briefly describe why the UK made subsequent attempts and why it was eventually admitted.

EEC grew out from the European Coal and Steel Community that was created to co-ordinate the production of these commodities supranationally. Britain had not joined ECSC due to various incompatibilities with the system in Britain (just nationalised) and the one in Europe. ECSC was designed to be a start for a much closer union. Its designer, Monnet, hoped that the functional spillovers that the system will create will help to further the integration process.

The ECSC turned out to be a success, the production of the commodities was managed effectively and decision to enlarge the range of issues for co-ordination was extended. However, the design of EEC was not appealing to Britain. The main reason it was opposed was the fact that it involved giving sovereignty away to a central body. There has never been a revolution in Britain and the attitudes for governance are significantly more conservative than in other EU states. This fact is also illustrated by the reluctance to use euros because they do not have the Queen’s head etc.

Another reason for opposing EU was that it went against the idea of free trade. Economic theory suggest that countries are better off even if they use unilateral free trade policies, because they will get all the subsidies that other countries are paying to their goods as lower prices. The idea of free trade and liberal policies is rooted deep into British political philosophy. However, other EU states were more into protectionism and extended social policies. Britain also had extensive trading links with imperial colonies. Surcharges would have to be adopted to their imports, however, the import levies would have been paid to central EU budget, from which Britain only received a small share. Its share was small because the agriculture, the main EC budget item, was efficient in UK and not in need of much support.

Finally, there was a problem of control. Britain wanted to control the unions it joined, however, this would have been nearly impossible to achieve in the EC. Added to this the problems in Suez with Britain and France, and it becomes reasonable for Britain not to join at the time.

Why then did Britain apply eventually, after the institutions had been created without its presence? There are many reasons, but the most important was probably the fact that EC proved to be successful. Their economies grew more than British ones, and it was a politically stable organisation, which did not turn into a supranational federal state. Thus, there were both economic advantages to be made and the political constraints were not that great. Furthermore, British trade pattern had been changing rapidly and the imperial countries did not account for such a large proportion of the revenue anymore. Furthermore, the imperial trade was not growing fast enough to support the British economy, and other export markets had to be sought. Thus, Britain was becoming a nation similar to other EC states anyway.

However, the more important reason for immediate application was probably the pressure from USA. EC had started to become an inward looking organisation. France had opted out from NATO and there were plans to form an independent military organisation WEU. USA was worried of these developments and wanted Britain with its open attitude to be part of this union. Thus, there was a deal between Macmillan government and USA, that in return for the application, USA would give Britain a nuclear missile.

Finally, it was quite clear that if Britain were not to join, then important decisions affecting her would be made without her. So although it could not lead the Union, it could still affect the decision making process to its favour. However, as history showed, it took quite a while for Britain to adopt the Community bargaining processes and to actually achieve significant changes in the Community policies.

The application was rejected essentially because of de Gaulle’s veto. Britain was viewed by him as a Trojan horse from USA, which would destroy the Community internally by blocking its progress. France was at the time the stronger partner in the Franco - German bond and wanted to maintain this effective leadership of the EU and turn it into a dominant world player.

After the first rejection, the other applications were made with a relatively large domestic support. Part of it was national pride and embarrassment because of the rejection, part of it the change in government and Labour getting into power, and being more inclined to support euro. Heath government was being pragmatic, its main aim was to ensure economic growth. He thought the best policy for this would be free trade, when this turned out to be unsuccessful, he turned into EC.

UK application was finally accepted in 1971 after de Gaulle had departed. As it became clear the advantages of initial EU membership were not that great. The whole world economy got into trouble after the energy price collapse and the union was not very effective in dealing with these crises. In addition, the structures of the EU were already there, so Britain could only start modifying them, which proved to be difficult.

Clearly, the success of EU, its non-supranational character, loss of imperial trade and USA pressure motivated the application. However, the result was not as beneficial as might have been hoped, partly because the joining occurred too late. Some writers draw parallels with the euro at the moment, again Britain is standing aside, again it appears that euro is a success and now Britain has to apply later, and has suffered high interest rates meanwhile.

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