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EDITIONS
UK Confidential Monday, 1 January, 2001, 00:40 GMT
Transcripts: The Europe negotiator
Sir Crispin Tickell
What were the tactics in the corridors of power as the UK sought to enter the Common Market? Sir Crispin Tickell was on the negotiating team - and in an interview for UK Confidential he revealed there were certain issues the government didn't want the discussing...


Why was there a desire in government to get the whole thing done so quickly?

It was generally felt that if a high-profile negotiation of this kind lingered on too long, then there would be a severe risk of a change of mood in the country which would be hostile to the whole enterprise.

There was a feeling we must keep making progress.

If we aren't making progress, then we're falling backwards.

How great were the concerns of public opinion turning against the project?

People didn't really understand what it was about, for one thing.

And even in the year 2001 they don't understand it either to a large degree.

We'd tried to join the European Community in 1963 and that had been vetoed by (France's President) General de Gaulle.

Under the Wilson government we tried again in 1967 and that also had gone nowhere so here we were, under Mr Heath, trying for a third time.

We didn't wish to present ourselves as supplicants.

We wished to join an enterprise in which we thought we could make a very positive contribution.

The French view of the UK was that of "a nervous passenger on the platform whose skirt has got caught up in the door".

I think the prime aim of Edward Heath was indeed to get away from that image. He wanted to get onboard the train as soon as he could, taking his skirts with him.


We didn't wish to present ourselves as supplicants. We wished to join an enterprise in which we thought we could make a very positive contribution

Sir Crispin Tickell
And then, once aboard the train we could, to some degree, control the way in which the train was going.

That' was perhaps one of the most important single elements in the whole negotiation.

Like it or not, we are geographically a part of Europe.

There was a strong feeling that we didn't wish to be the poodle of the United States.

Our national prosperity and our national dignity required us to be there with our European partners, but helping to drive it in ways we wanted.

You had ambitious plans for economic and social -economic and social union, economic and monetary union, and if you were going to do that in a sensible way, then you had to be able to have an influence on the different stages by which you achieved this.

The impression you get is that issues like sovereignty and monetary union were downplayed.

The sovereignty issue was always there. It was in the background of the negotiations all the time.

It's a question of degrees and shades and little efforts to prove I'm sovereign here, I'm not so sovereign there.

In later years when, for example, we found that the pound was being driven all over the place, it was a terrible revelation of how little sovereignty we actually had in the 1970s over economic policy.

But the sovereignty issue was downplayed to the people?

I'm not quite sure how much the, the sovereignty issue was mentioned in the speeches but it was certainly conscious, very much present in the minds of the negotiators.

But when you watch or read the reports at the time, it's all about things such as the price of New Zealand butter or the price of sugar - sovereignty doesn't get much of a mention.

I think if you look at the great debate that took place in the House of Commons towards the end of 1970, I think (sovereignty) was an issue.

But there were the implications of our long-term membership of Europe - going beyond the grocer shop stage.

There were those in the Cabinet office and indeed everywhere including us, there were those at the time who were very keen to bring out the longer-term implications of what we were doing.

And those implications really were that we must be part of a larger union if we were going to do the things that we wanted to do in the right kind of way.

What about monetary union?

The issues of monetary union and our eventual destination were certainly very much in the minds of officials.


Everyone wanted to approach these monetary issues with extreme caution and the less they came out in the open, the better

Sir Crispin Tickell
But supposing we had suggested that in coming together with the others, our aim was to find some way of paying our debts and dealing with the reserve role of sterling, it would have had extremely bad effects on sterling.

Everyone wanted to approach these monetary issues with extreme caution and the less they came out in the open, the better.

That is the attitude of all ministries and ministers of finance the world over.

For example with the Euro recently, Mr Duisenberg (president of the European Central Bank) has only to make one incautious remark and the Euro falls another couple of points.

There were a number of ideas being discussed in the background, ideas such as those which have led to the Euro were already under discussion at the time.

There was also the so-called Werner plan, which would have led ineluctably to a measure of economic and monetary union.

But the argument in London was don't let's talk about this in public because we don't know what effects it would have on sterling.

In other words the bread and butter issues are appropriate for a negotiation of this kind and when we're in, then we can discuss the longer-term questions.

But all we heard about was sugar and butter?

It's perfectly true that the presentation of the case was partly about such emotive issues as the Commonwealth.

We didn't want to feel that the New Zealanders who had come to fight for us in two world wars were going to be let down.

We had the Caribbean countries who were heavily dependent on us.

What were the wider views of the draft plan for monetary union?

A lot of people who had studied the very draft plans for economic and monetary union in 1970 were worried about what that would mean and what it would lead to. It would have disturbed a lot of people, not least in France.

No one wanted to have a huge public debate about something that hadn't happened.

Negotiating on economic and monetary issues outside the union was a very, very tricky thing to do and we didn't do more than we had to do.

The essential argument throughout is it's easier to control the destiny of Europe if you're a full and equal partner than if you are indeed negotiating from outside.

At the time there seemed to be no clear idea of the economic benefits of joining the Common Market - it was more of a political consideration.

Going into the European Community was always a very fine mix of political and economic considerations.

There were those who had their doubts notably in the Treasury saying that the price was certain, but that the benefits were very uncertain.

There were those, on the other hand, who believed that the price was high but that the benefits were very promising.

They argued that the effect on membership would be that we would have growth rates comparable to those in the European Community, a kick-start to the British economy at a time when it was deep in the doldrums.


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