Peter Thorneycroft, The European Idea (1957


Caption: In October 1957, in response to the imminent implementation of the Rome Treaties, Peter
Thornycroft, Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom, sets out the position of the British
Government on the revival of European integration and warns against a division of Europe into several
economic areas.
Source: Foreign Affairs. An American Quarterly Review. October 1957- July 1958, Nr. 36. New York. "The
European Idea", auteur:Thorneycroft, Peter , p. 472-479.
Copyright: Reprinted by permission of FOREIGN AFFAIRS 1957. (c) 2008 Council of Foreign Relations,
Last updated: 05/11/2015


M. Two successive generations of Europeans have seen the devastation of war. At all times. of poetry and of practical achievement. What."). centrally and upon interior lines. loved and died. Sir Winston Churchill in the first volume of his brilliant history of the English-speaking peoples recounts our origins. Torn by wax and conquest. prevent their repetition in the future. as I shall show later. This area is. Separated. it would be remarkable if they were content to seek to settle alone and in isolation the domestic problems of what at least to American eyes would appear to be very small areas indeed. National patriotisms are strong. searching raids of the Norsemen. swiftly. but that the pressure for it has not been felt even more keenly hitherto. the systems of law which today permeate the greater part of the Western world — all spring in the main from this turbulent section of the world. the North Sea and the Russians is not large in relation to the rest of the earth's surface. of painting. though less certainly than in years past. on the other hand. by 20 miles of sea. They misconceived the meaning of her smile. If recent experience has been an important factor in their minds. we 2/6 . perhaps. Only those who have either suffered the degradation of an imposed and foreign occupation or. It is noteworthy that three of the men who have played a large part in the European movement — Dr. we remain inextricably related by ties of blood. weakened by internecine strife. have seen that national frontiers and national rivalries can sometimes be maintained only at a brutal and increasing cost of human sacrifice. much more than to be a European. That area of the world which is bounded roughly by the Atlantic Ocean. conquered. Where do the British Isles come into this picture? First.(1) the swift. Europeans have yet found the time and the capacity to leave an incomparable legacy of music. the Mediterranean. Such men. the origins of democratic government. that they now seek some closer unity. the existing situation must have urged them along the same road.The European Idea by Peter Thorneycroft The idea of a United Europe is not new. to be a Frenchman or a German has meant. then. after all. the size of many of the national territories is too small to give full scope to the energies and abilities of their people. at least until very recent times. Beyond is Communism. It has exercised the minds of the soldiers and sometimes of the statesmen of Europe for many centuries. has brought about the impetus for closer unity that we now see upon the Continent of Europe? The reasons — and it is important to understand this — are not commercial or economic in their origin. At a time when men's minds are stretching out to new frontiers in space. We have throughout our history taken part in their wars and shared in both their triumphs and disasters. The march of the Roman Legions up to Hadrian's Wall. were yet born within some 125 miles of one another. settled. Commerce and economics have. operating powerfully. so far as human ingenuity can contrive. Schuman and M. and quite simply. The surprising thing is not. the Norman Conquest. Yet men do not live easily within the same institutional arrangements. their part to play. culture and commerce with our friends upon the mainland. yet within it has originated much that has shaped the destiny of mankind. witnessed the moral collapse which can follow a transitory military victory with its resultant growth of temporal power can perhaps understand to the full the demand for change in Europe. the long years of the Roman Peace ("In Roman Britain men thought for many generations that they had answered the riddle of the Sphinx. though no less patriotic than their forebears. Small wonder that this part of the West at least should seek means of achieving a more common policy and greater facilities for common action. There is no race stemming from the main Continent of Europe that is not represented in these islands where they fought. and this is relevant today. Adenauer. it must be stated and understood that the English are Europeans. Finally. but in this instance it is subsidiary to the main theme. The culture of Athens and of Rome. Spaak — though citizens of different countries and subject to different allegiances. of prose. Those who have seen these things seek not unnaturally for a degree of unity which would. upon the frontiers of the free world.

The Treaty of Rome is not a detailed policy so much as the establishment of principles and institutions within which common policy can be worked out and applied. is the political background to the European scene. subsidies and minimum price agreements. towards any larger Free Trade Area. crucial to the attitude which the outer world may eventually adopt towards the Treaty of Rome or.have watched to see that they should not unite for a purpose inimical to our interests. such other countries of Western Europe as could without grave risk to their economic stability move within a period of not more than 12 or 15 years to a 3/6 . Second. and seek to expand the flow of trade both ways between itself and others? The answer to these questions is. This. and not in France alone. This brings us to the rest of Western Europe. and an Economic and Social Committee to advise and assist the Council and Commission. a Council of Ministers which will seek to coordinate the economic policies of the member countries. A common external tariff is to be established. provision is made for a Court of Justice to which all members can bring grievances. Assume that you do establish such an economic community. As the situation stands today. the six countries of the Common Market with their plans for free trade in manufactured goods and an organized market for their agriculture. These methods may include any thing needed to implement the common policy. Here again the main question — what kind of an agricultural policy will you pursue — remains unanswered. what kind of an economic policy will you pursue? Would such a community be narrowly self-centered. The objective of the Community is to promote economic development by the establishment of a Common Market and by the progressive coordination of the economic policies of the members. Special methods. Some in France on the other hand. it is said. inward-looking and highly protectionist. Germany. including — though not limited to — import and export controls. Let it be clearly understood that the answer to this question is not yet determined. but a tariff is an insignificant barrier compared with what can be achieved by these other and more powerful instruments. Some in Germany are powerful advocates of the outward- looking policy. Western Europe is divided into three. of course. then. and it is not Europeans alone who are anxious as to what the eventual answer will turn out to be. It was against this background that the so-called six "Messina Powers"—France. This view is on the whole shared by Belgium. the Netherlands and Luxembourg with their traditional low-tariff policies. It is at this point that an important and controversial aspect of the Treaty of Rome must be referred to — namely. In addition. Italy. Belgium. They were the best that could be agreed upon among these six nations after long periods of anxious and difficult negotiations. Not surprisingly to those who have studied agricultural policy on either side of the Atlantic. They leave inevitably many questions unanswered. the position of agriculture. Suffice it here to pose the main questions which many inside the organization. will have to be applied. see in the development of such an economic community an opportunity to pursue highly protectionist policies and to shelter themselves from competition from the outer world. It is designed to establish among the six a European Economic Community. It is relatively easy to criticize in detail these various arrangements. the Treaty of Rome adopts a different proposal for agriculture from that put forward in the case of manufactured goods. and more outside it. Free trade is rejected and instead a common agricultural policy is to be worked out. Customs duties are to be eliminated in three main stages over a period of from 12 to 15 years. We are too closely part and parcel of the Continent of Europe to accept separation from it without strains being imposed over very wide fields of policy. First. The men who devised them would be the last to claim perfection for them. Quantitative restrictions are to be progressively eliminated. are asking. Holland and Luxembourg — instituted arrangements culminating in the Treaty of Rome. assume that you resolve the various internal difficulties of such an association. These institutions consist of an Assembly composed of parliamentarians which will meet annually. The Treaty of Rome is set in an economic context. Opinions differ sharply inside Europe on the proper answer. for that matter. The long-term objective of removing tariffs inside the area is kept. or would it look outward to the larger world beyond. and a Commission consisting of nine independent "experts" from member countries whose task will be to superintend the working and application of the Treaty.

Denmark. indeed. It is not a simple problem. Thirdly. many of our leading industrialists have been in the forefront in advocating the advantages to all of larger trading areas. yet much turns upon success in solving it. would serve her interests? Could she join the Six if the other partners in the Scandinavian Alliance remained out? What would happen to her agricultural trade with Britain. laudable. Failure to achieve it would. "Yes. and her economic policy is based upon the plain fact that she must be competitive or she will count for nothing. for example. A solution to the relationship between Britain and the Six would not solve all the problems. and Greece — for reasons associated with her internal economy — can clearly claim to be within the third. Her existence depends largely upon her agricultural exports and much of these are to the Six. Our difficulty. have repercussions outside the field of commerce or of economics. It is perhaps invidious to single out individual countries and place them in various categories. If there be any Americans who criticize us for what may sometimes appear to be our old-fashioned approach to life or an unwillingness to adventure. It is one of the encouraging features of this phase of events that in answer to the question. If Britain were to lower her tariffs against Europe. and secondly. the adoption of what is known as the free-trade-area approach. we should have to start by raising tariffs where no tariffs today exist. Let it be explained that the essential difficulty was not the refusal of the British to accept this measure of competition in their home market. is not a domestic one but is associated with our obligations to our partners in the Commonwealth. The reason for this is simple and. and for the past three months European Ministers have been wrestling with the problem under the able chairmanship of a British Minister. if she did join it. The solution which we have proposed turns upon two factors. she would automatically remove the preferences she was extending to imports from Commonwealth countries. It is necessary to ensure that we do not just import goods free of duty from the Commonwealth and then pass them on as our own to Europe. however. is the privilege of keeping our freedom in respect to external tariffs which we impose today upon the world outside. Protectionist forces exist in Britain as elsewhere. if she were associated with the Six and Britain were not? These are the kinds of questions which have been exercising the minds of Europeans. which is large. say. Yet the Six plan an organized agricultural market among themselves. The British position. Clearly in this matter Britain faces a dilemma: how to cooperate in a policy for free trade in Europe without damaging irretrievably the trading pattern in which so many countries are involved within the Commonwealth. Essentially what we have said so far as manufactured goods are concerned is.system of free trade among themselves and including the Six. but Great Britain and the Scandinavian countries are examples of the second. we will revise our tariffs against other countries in Europe at the same pace and in the same manner as they revise their tariffs against us. The problem which faces Europe today is how to reconcile the various positions. then. It was for long thought that this dilemma was so difficult that no solution could be found. Indeed. free of all duty whatsoever. the treatment of agriculture. moreover. First. Mr. of course. but her industry is lively and aggressive. We do not impose any tariff against most goods from the Commonwealth. and if we adopted the common external tariff of the Six. All these countries are today members of the Organization for European Economic Cooperation. All of them would undoubtedly benefit from a united rather than a divided Europe. creates problems." What we do require. they might perhaps ponder what answer American industry would give to such a free-trade challenge. Over the years goods would be coming into Britain from Europe as well as from. but it could clearly be an essential factor in maintaining the larger aim of a united Europe. Should she seek to join this? Would it be the kind of market which. those other countries of Western Europe which for one reason or another will clearly not be in a position within such a period to accept free trade with its implication of increased competition on the home market. Let us take. Reginald Maudling. Canada or Australia. There is also the question of what advantage we may gain from importing raw materials free of duty (and therefore cheaper 4/6 . Great efforts are being made through the Organization for European Economic Cooperation. Let us then turn to examine the British approach to this matter. "Will you over the years accept competition on equal terms with any Western European country?" the answer of British industry has not been negative.

The second factor is agriculture. I doubt that the agriculture problem of itself would constitute an insuperable obstacle to a common trading policy for Europe. They stem from a variety of causes. If men and ministers meet upon commercial and economic matters. where do France's real interests lie? M. however. that all her European partners use all their best endeavors to meet the special French problem. and are not limited to economics alone. we have lived with them enough to know that they are not insoluble. If its purpose is to exclude. the decision is for unity. Great good or great evil could flow from the negotiations now being carried on. The bulk of the imports from the Commonwealth is in the form of foodstuffs. I would suggest that it is a matter of first importance to the United States that Western Europe should be united and should be strong. In an area whose trade is as closely interwoven as this. France's short-term difficulties in associating herself with the wider concept of a Free Trade Area covering the rest of Western Europe are not to be minimized. and then selling finished products on the Continent. discrimination by one half against the other will surely lead to counter discrimination in one form or another. on this point many Europeans take the view that the sensible course would be for the Continental countries to lower their duties against raw materials rather than ask us to put ours up. the main market for agricultural produce from the Continent and our tariff levels are more liberal than those of most other European countries. therefore. is the choice which now lies before Europe.than the rest of Europe). I believe that ways can be found to resolve such difficulties as still persist and to open the way for the wider vision of the new Europe which lies ahead. If. If it is decided that Europe must be divided. after all. A trading area as rich as the United States and as large in population as the Soviet Union offers a new hope for the free world. At this moment the issue remains undecided. What should be the attitude of America to these adventures? So far it has been generous and understanding. too. Assuming. We are. therefore. They are regarded by France's European friends with sympathy and understanding. then. but they are real. The coming year may well see it determined one way or the other. the rewards will not be purely economic. We share. the view of the Six that free trade for agriculture is not a practical proposition. What. this would clearly raise issues of a most difficult and controversial character. including the Algerian War. Economic strength in this area provides both a bastion against the advance of alien theories and a growing and secure market for transatlantic trade. do the French want it? The French economic difficulties are well known. the prizes ahead are considerable. on the other hand. The long-term rewards are also great. of the organized agricultural market of the Six? Clearly one cannot be too dogmatic until one sees for what purpose it is established. Any free-trade-area system as described above would have to take account of these same difficulties. must find a seat at the council table. Moreover. Stripped of its inevitable complexities. Whatever the difficulties. But it must include all Western Europe. it will certainly be divided in more ways than in trade alone. it would be wrong to go to the other extreme and say that no room existed for cooperation on agricultural problems between Britain and the Continent of Europe. The real question is: Do enough Europeans want it? In particular. 5/6 . and the suggestion that we were about to adopt free trade for agriculture would be as distressing to these Commonwealth exporters as it would be surprising for our own domestic producers. it resolves itself into the alternative of one Western Europe or a divided Western Europe. pressing and today effectively inhibit her from any genuine form of free trade with the Six or with anybody else. It is for this reason that the Treaty of Rome includes fairly wide escape clauses for the French. Nevertheless. However. then. North American — or for that matter Australian — wheat for the benefit of European producers. however. even though introduced gradually. Gaillard has never approached these matters from a narrow view. This. say. they will of necessity meet on much else. Other things being equal. Those few nations which are not yet able to adopt the full measure of free trade. What is important is that their position should not weaken the resolve of others to reach the aims which they have set themselves. We are at a dramatic turning point in European history. But of one thing there is no doubt.

p.(1) ”The Birth of Britain. 1956." New York: Dodd. 6/6 . Mead. 46.