By Desmond Fisher
IT is a bit late in the day to be writing in support
of Britain's entry into the Common Market, President de Gaulle's intransigence has, it would seem, closed the door in our face for the time being. The other five members of the E.E.C. may be opposed to his attitude and, to varying degrees, pressing for our entry. But their support is not likely to bring them to the stage of breaking with France on the issue. A crisis inside the E.E.C. at this point could still wreck it.
But there is no reason to believe that we are locked out for ever. It is, in fact, only de Gaulle who stands in our way (and the measure of this man's power in Europe today is that his opposition is enough to keep us out). But circumstances may yet change in favour of our entry.
It is important to understand de Gaulle's thinking. For him, France can he great only as leader of a Paris-Bonn axis which dominates Europe. He can achieve this position in a " little Europe of the Six : he could not do co in a Europe of ten or eighteen nations.
Secondly, de Gaulle sees Europe not as a satellite of America or a junior partner in the Western alliance. For him, Europe is or wilt bees-an equal partner and. possibly. a rival for the leadership of the West. At the same time. he wants to retain for Europe the possibility of becoming a third force between the two great power blocs.
Adenauer's support for de Gaulle is based on his fear that at some future time the U.S. and Russia might reach some agreement on Berlin which would lead to a significant reduction in the number of U.S. troops in Europe. At that stage, Germany wants to feel that she has other powerful allies to support her—and preferably allies with nuclear arms.
De Gaulle s intransigence in the face of the wishes of the other members has seriously weakened the idea of the E.E.C. as a supranational organisation. To give de Gaulle his due. he has always opposed this. For mm the future of the Common Market is a Europe des patries in which each constituent nation would retain. its sovereignty and separate insttae tions. He is against too much pooling of powers and in this, of course. he is in step with what seems to be the general British attitude.
But it would be unwise to see the Common Market of the future as iust a close customs union with the minimum of institutional superstructure. The forces which are working for dn'ty in Europe are. very strong. There is a deep desire for building a vital Europe. which would retain its own distinctive cultural identity and, indeed. develop it against the growing pervasiveness of American materialistic influences. A disunited Europe finds it much harder to resist. Ilnity would force the growth of a strong sense of
identification and the spur to develop it culturally. There is another consideration which must he taken into account. It is Europe, not America, which is the legitimate heir of the colonial era. It is Europe and not America which should shoulder the main responsibility for the development of the newlyindependent nations.
American aid is often closely identified with political strings, though one must applaud her great generosity in many fields. But at the Punta del Este meeting at which the Latin-American nations — with the exception of Cuba — signed the Alliance for Progress pact. channelling millions of dollars in American aid, Che Guevara. the Cuban vice-premier, could stand up afterwards and say with a gre deal of truth: "Well, gentlemen. It is Cuba you have to thank for this".
A European social investment fund for developing worthwhile capital projects in the underdeveloped countries might be the most imaginative and worthwhile project of our times. It is conceivable only in terms of a united Europe.
But the best argument in favour of Britain entering the Common Market is not a political or an economic one. It is to visit the F.EC countries themselves One leaves a Britain. riddled by strikes.
official and unofficial. now facing a serious unemployment crisis. with a stagnating economy and recurring balance of trade problems, her influence in the world declining. And one arrives in countries which are booming, not only in statistically-demonstrable economic terms but in the whole field of human activity. There is an air of progress, of awareness, of go-ahcadness, This is true not only in material matters but in the realm of the mind. New ideas are being tried; new horizons keep coming into view.
Even to look at it from the narrower viewpoint of Catholic life, we have noticed the revolutionary developments on the Continent. There new methods are being experimented with every day to make people more aware of their religion, more anxious to bring it into their daily lives. eager to apply it to the changed conditions of our times. These new ideas and new drives are not confined to the leaders of the Church. The laity is involved. indeed sometimes well in the forefront.
It is net ivat that these ideas
have not penetrated into Britain. The real difference between Britain and the Continent is that the European peoples seem to be more alive to the problems and realities of today and to he keen on trying new methods of solving them, In Britain, we seem to prefer to adapt the old methods to the new needs. something that just simply does not work.
It is not that Britain is too isolationist. The real reason for the modern British malaise seems to be a spiritual tiredness, a refusal to believe that today's problems can he solved, that the strains and stresses of today can he removed, that people can he enabled to dominate their circumstances instead of sitting hack and letting circumstances mould them. On the Continent. one feels that at least an effort is being made.
That being said, it would he wrong to overlook the weight of the political and economic arguments. On the economic side. the blunt fact is that Britain cannot hope to survive at her present living standard if she is confined to trading with the Commonwealth and EFTA countries. To progress economically. Britain needs to increase her overseas trading — and particularly her exports — substantially. At the same time, she cannot afford unless in the context of the EEC — to offend the farmers. So her policy, as long as she is out of the Common Market, must remain one of subsidising home production of foodstuffs, which in turn hits our Commonwealth and EFTA (c.f. Denmark) suppliers. If we take less from them, we can sell less to them and so our overall trade declines
At the same time, the Commonwealth countries in particular will want to continue building up their own manufacturing irdustry. Thus the traditional pattern of British industrial exports being traded for Commonwealth food will weaken further.
That is the negative side On the positive side there is the undoubted fact that membership of the Common Market would greatly increase our total trade. There is no need to quote the statistics to prove that internal Common Market trade has increased enormously since the EEC came into being. The signs of it are to be seen in the new flats in Brussels and Paris and Rome; in the Renaults and Fiats and Vespas and Volkswagens; in the clothes. and houses and living standards of the peoples of Europe.
Those people are deluding themselves who think that all this would have happened without the Common Market, They are overlooking the psychological impetus which the Common Market idea has produced. the feeling that work is worthwhile because it can he rewarded in better living conditions. (This is not necessarily a materialistic view: it is surely God's plan that man should work for his own material improvement and For that of others.)
In the political field, the future is less certain. No one can predict what way the European institutions will develop. Certainly. as long as President de Gaulle is the leader of France, the supranational institutions which the founders of Europe had in their minds will not come into being. But the impetus towards the union of Europe is there. It cannot be held tip for ever.
Whether it will develop into a third force is another matter. The Atlantic Alliance, which many British antagonists of the Common Market support, is a very long way ahead. In the meantime, Europe will grow closer together and its cohesion will give it greater strength. Eventually. given its dynamism and economic power, it may rival the two or three great power-blocs of the future. If Britain is not a part of Europe. what role will she play in the world? Can she remain even in ranks of the second-class powers?
Another consideration. If Britain is not a memberof the EEC she will not be in a position to mould the political development of Europe. If we want to prevent as does President de Gaulle the development of supra-national institutions. we will he much more easily able to do so inside the EEC than outside it.
There is one thread of silver in the lining of 'he present dark cloud. It is that we will now have a breathing space in which we can examine our own outlook on Europe a little more calmly and not feel that we are being rushed into something about which we are not entirely convinced. For I refuse to believe that the door has closed against Britain for ever.