The aim of this essay is to present the reason of British government changing it’s mind about EEC membership. The United Kingdom became a member of the European Economic Community in January 1973. However, its relationship with the European Community (EC) has been marked by strong national preferences and prolonged periods of weighing pros and cons of membership. At the end of the Second World War, Europe was totally drained and exhausted. Age-old trade links had been cut off and any heavy industry or vital manufacturing that had not been destroyed was operating below capacity in a Europe that lay bruised and ill-prepared to deal with the millions of people made homeless both during and after the war.
The continent was now relegated to playing a supporting role on the international stage owing to the increased might of the United States and the Soviet Union and the growing rivalry between those two countries. In this context, a divided Western Europe quickly realised that the path to its survival lay in working together and establishing effective, common institutions, if necessary with American financial, technical and military support.
They were times of great political instability accompanied by heightened social tensions, and innovative diplomatic solutions were urgently needed, even at regional level. The debate on the status of Germany, where, from 1961, the division of Berlin was the symbol in Europe of the Cold War between the two World Powers, together with the inexorable decline in their overseas territories, made Europe’s dependence on external forces all the more striking. It was at this point that pro-European movements and supporters of federalism moved into action and vigorously promoted the idea of European unification.
Closely associated with financial circles and demonstrating allegiance to a particular political tendency, or seeking, on the contrary, to mobilize the mass of public opinion, these movements, some of which resulted from the Resistance, established in 1947 an International Committee for the Coordination of Movements for European Unity. In May 1948, they also convened the Hague Congress, from which emerged the European Movement (EM), founded in Brussels on25 October1948. 1 So, in 1950, in a speech inspired by Jean Monnet, the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed integrating the coal and steel industries of Western Europe.
A a result, in 1951, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was set up, with six members: Belgium, West Germany, Luxembourg, France, Italy and the Netherlands. The power to take decisions about the coal and steel industry in these countries was placed in the hands of an independent, supranational body called the “High Authority”. Jean Monnet was its first President. The ECSC was such a success that, within a few years, these same six countries decided to go further and integrate other sectors of their economies. Establishment EFTA
When the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was formed in the 1950’s, Britain did not join due to political and economic reasons. First, the supranational characteristic of the Community did not appeal to the British elite and electorate. Second, European affairs were seen as irrelevant to the British public. Third, the consensus emerged that membership in the Community could weaken Britain’s strong trading links to its Commonwealth countries. In the late forties and early fifties British standards of living, British income per head, and strength of British economy had seemed greatly superior to those of most of the Continent.
While Britain was prepared to make some sacrifices in the immediate post-war period (introducing bread rationing after the war to help feed the defeated nations) There seamed very little to gain from economic integration with nations suffering Such economic difficulties, apart from their social problems and political instability. Finally, the argument arose that membership could jeopardize Britain’s political ties to the Unites States. Therefore, the United Kingdom decided to opt out and instead create a European free trade area that would serve as a competing force to the European Economic Community.
In 1959, Britain and seven other countries created the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). EFTA has been established as a counterweigh to the EEC. The EFTA treaty provided only for the elimination of tariffs on industrial products among member nations. It did not extend to agricultural products, nor did it provide a common external tariff, and members could withdraw at any time. Thus the EFTA was a much weaker union than the Common Market. 2 Decision on Britain joining EEC: reasons Britain came late to the European Communities.
When the negotiations began in 1950 that led to creation of ECSC, forerunner of the present EC, the British Labour government of Clement Attlee was invited to participate, but declined. As a consequence of this refusal to become founder member, the British found them self’s outside a highly successful economic grouping which, as their own economic problems grew and their independent influence in the world declined, it proved impossible to ignore. 3 In 1961, with the EEC’s apparent economic success, the United Kingdom changed its view and began negotiations toward EEC membership.
However, the realization emerged that remaining outside of the EC would lead to economic and political isolation, and Britain would have little influence in Europe. As a result, the Conservative Macmillan government lodged an application to join the EEC in August 1961 Several factors had contributed towards revision of Conservative party thinking on Europe. The first reason was that while EFTA may have been living up to it’s limited expectations , it had done little to counter the growing importance of EEC .
This was true not just of the d developments that had occurred within the EEC and the prospects of further progress in the near future, but also as a relationship between the EEC and individual EFTA states. Members of EFTA such as – Austria and Switzerland a swell as Britain it self- were still trading more with the EEC then with their EFTA associates. As the EEC seamed likely to move on rapidly towards a full custom union. , Britain felt it imperative to safeguard its important trade with the Community.
If this were lost by remaining outside the external tariffs wall that the EEC might construct, it could not be compensated through EFTA. The second factor was the continuing assessment by the British government of its diminished role and waning influence in world politics , in particular with regard to United States and Commonwealth. As the Commonwealth expand in number with decolonization, it had become clearer that Britain , while still dominating trade with most of its ex-colonies, could not retain the same exclusive treading advantages as before.