21 September 1962 - 26 September 1962

The impact of European integration on Commonwealth-American relations

The Provost said that this had been, from the point of view of Ditchley, a highly successful conference. Success for Ditchley was reckoned, not by operative conclusions, for it was neither an official nor an executive body, nor did it exist to promote any opinion, nor by publishable reports, for the essence of meetings of the present kind was that they were entirely confidential, so that unofficial and official participants alike could speak freely, knowing that their words were not going to be taken down as evidence against them, nor would they in any way commit their Governments or the organisations to which they belonged. Officials in particular were present primarily as expert consultants. Nothing that he said could be attributed to anyone but him. Success was measured rather by the quality of the discussion, the degree to which it searched out, not only the manifest problems, but also the hidden ones, particularly those which might affect the relations between the British and American peoples, and the effect it seemed likely to have in enlarging the views and knowledge of those taking part in their future work, and through them others with whom they were associated. In this sense he felt sure that this had been a highly successful conference.

At the same time, he continued, a meeting of this sort did throw up a certain pattern of thinking, and he would try to give his own impression of the pattern that had emerged from the discussions.

These impressions were, of course, complicated by the fact that the Conference had been confronted by a double hypothesis: that Britain entered the E.E.C., or that she did not. Particularly on the British side, there were different opinions as to whether she would be right to enter on the terms likely to be negotiated. Clearly there would be different repercussions on Commonwealth- American relations of those two possibilities. But both on the political and economic sides it seemed best to give most attention to the reaction of Britain’s going into the Community rather than staying out, as the hypothesis better calculated to throw up the problems that it would be valuable to discuss.

On the politico-strategic side, at present the three main spheres of the Anglo-American special relationship seemed to consist of:

(i) nuclear matters;

(ii) similar responsibilities, arising from joint membership of the various alliances, and our position in the East-West confrontation generally; and

(iii) the habit of regular consultation on important matters of common interest.

On nuclear policy, the Conference was inclined to feel that the situation was likely to be affected more by the growing disparity in nuclear strength between the two countries than by any specific consequences of Britain’s entering a European political system. Nevertheless, the nuclear relationship was a peculiarly difficult one.

Perhaps a practical solution to the nuclear ambitions of the French, vis-à-vis Britain and America, would be for the U.K. to propose some multilateral arrangement. There seemed no prospect of Europe’s ever agreeing to the U.K. being a sort of “nuclear executive agent” on its behalf. At the same time, the Americans could not acquiesce in Britain’s becoming a channel for supplying U.S. nuclear information to Europe. Obviously this European problem demanded an early solution, in an Atlantic framework, The question was, on what lines? This problem, involving the whole Anglo-American nuclear relationship, arose whether Britain entered the Common Market or not.

The questions of common responsibility and of the habit of consultation proved to be largely inseparable, in the discussion of the change likely to be brought about in the political field, The Anglo-American relationship had hitherto necessarily been based on a combination of two things; fundamental like-mindedness and power-plus- responsibility. Power should not be interpreted in too narrow a sense - experience, influence, reliability, skill and inventiveness wore often more important than sheer military or economic strength. Nevertheless, if Britain’s power became less individual, in Europe, this was bound to alter the exclusive nature of her traditional relationship with America, which would increasingly have to deal with Europe as a unit. Of course, this process would be gradual: and Britain might continue to exert considerable influence - but through Europe.

This gave rise to an important question from the point of view of the United States, and indeed of the free world as a whole. That would happen in those places, outside the area of Treaty commitments, where Britain had for sp long maintained local security and exerted influence, e.g. the Persian Gulf, parts of Africa and the Indian Ocean? Would her entry into Europe undermine her ability and her will to continue to do so? This question was perhaps the most vital that the discussions threw up in the political and strategic sphere.

Indeed, he said, the most interesting aspect of all the discussions was the way in which they illumined the impact of European integration upon distant parts of the world. This concerned, of course, particularly the Commonwealth, and on this we had the help of some very valuable representatives from various Commonwealth countries; but it also concerned the under-developed world generally, and such other areas as Japan and Latin America. Changes in the relationship between the highly developed parts of the world and the rest was implicit in European economic unity, whether or not Britain went in, but her entry would accelerate the changes and make the problem more urgent, because it would disrupt the Commonwealth system of aid through preferences and the open British market for important raw materials and foodstuffs, both from the tropical and temperate countries distant from Europe. Financial aid was an inferior substitute for commercial trade.

The discussions threw up a number of problems which seemed to call for urgent treatment after the hypothesis of an enlarged European Economic Community became an accomplished fact:

a) Multilateral trade negotiations among the United States, the enlarged Community and other G.A.T.T. members should clearly be undertaken as soon as possible.

b) There would be an urgent requirement to proceed with negotiations for an international grains conference to deal with problems of trade in these commodities. It might be possible to proceed along the same lines for certain other commodities.

c) The trade requirements of the less developed countries should be considered as rapidly as possible with a view to establishing:

  • improved conditions for the flow of tropical agricultural foodstuffs and industrial raw materials into  advanced countries on a basis which provided price stability and reasonable income to producers; and
  • adequate and increasing markets for their manufactures

d) Distortion of competition in international trade (apart from tariffs) which would become more apparent as tariffs were reduced, would have to be examined.

e) A freer international flow of capital should he encouraged; and

f) The problems of international liquidity and the means of improving the world payments structure would also have to be examined.

When the conference came to discuss the subject of interdependence and a closer partnership between Europe and the United States, to which President Kennedy referred in his Fourth of July Address, it was agreed that such closer relationship should take account of the problems of other countries, particularly those of the Commonwealth, Japan and Latin America.

An enlarged European Community would obviously require a period of time for consolidation.  During this period a number of urgent world economic and social problems would have to be resolved in the most liberal fashion possible and this would require close coordination between Europe, including Britain, and the. United States. The habit of working together on pragmatic solutions could lead in time to closer and perhaps institutional arrangements.

These were some of the larger issues that the discussions had thrown up. Clearly there was plenty of matter for further thought here, and for reassessment of the problems - as European integration advanced and some of the questions that were at present hypothetical became actual, He believed it would be useful if, at some future date, they had another conference at Ditchley on this whole field of international relationships.

It would certainly be a pleasure to renew the friendships that had been made at this Conference, as well as the interaction of minds. The Foundation was deeply grateful to those who had given their time - in the most assiduous and devoted way - to the Conference. They were especially indebted to the Chairmen of the two Study Groups, to Lord Kilmuir for presiding over the Conference until urgent business took him away, and to Mr. Franklin, for so admirably stepping into his place for the latter part of the discussions. Both he and his wife wished everyone Godspeed, with the hope that they would see them all again at Ditchley before too long.

Press cutting: Letters to the Editor, The Times, 30 January 1963

Sir—The Government should now look at Article 238 of the Treaty of Rome. For it provides a basis for the kind of imaginative and radical solution to which you beckon in your leading article today.

The Commonwealth countries and the members of Efta willing to join should be invited to form “an International Organization” as distinct from a “Union of States”. This organization could be merely a limited free-trade or preferential tariff consortium provided it constitutes an international organization within the meaning of the treaty. At present probably not even Efta and certainly not the Commonwealth has this status. With it they could negotiate with the E.E.C. for “conclusion of agreements creating an association embodying reciprocal rights and obligations, joint institutions and appropriate procedures”.

This is something quite different from associate membership of non-European countries under Article 131 and equally different from the full membership which we have failed to obtain. It has great advantages over both. In the first place, negotiations are with the commission and although conclusion of the agreement is by unanimous decision of the council after consultation with the assembly, prior agreements and subsequent ratifications by the member states of E.E.C. are not required. But above all is the consideration that we should be negotiating from strength. If an agreement were concluded, there would be a ready-made coupling for a wider Atlantic union. If not, there would be an existing alternative for economic and political expansion.

This plan was first put forward publicly at an Anglo-American conference last September. It probably went unnoticed in the atmosphere of near-certainty for Britain’s entry into the E.E.C. which then prevailed.

It is a proposal which, if pursued vigorously, might provide inspiration and hope throughout the western world. It could be the catalyst you seek. It would have the drama without the danger, it would be a positive spur to action this day.

I am, Sir, yours faithfully,