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Thursday, 7 September, 2000, 10:11 GMT 11:11 UK
Secret report stirs euro debate
Edward Heath
Edward Heath's government faced criticism over joining the EEC
A 28-year-old report by a senior civil servant about whether Britain should join the EEC has been released for the first time.

Sir Con O'Neill reveals in the document how he believed Britain joined the European Community years too late.

The sensitive documents were not due to be released for another two years, but it was decided to release them early in light of the current public debate over the euro.

The government is expected to use the release to warn of the dangers of not being a full member of the EU at a time when the Conservative Party is promising to limit the powers of Brussels.

What mattered was to get into the Community and thereby restore our position at the centre of European affairs

Sir Con O'Neill
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and the prime minister at the time, Sir Edward Heath, are expected to speak about the document revelations at 1800 BST.

Sir Con prepared the report on the negotiations of 1970-2, which led to the signing of the Treaty of Accession to the European Community, at the request of the then prime minister Edward Heath.

"What mattered was to get into the Community and thereby restore our position at the centre of European affairs which, since 1958, we had lost," he wrote.

Sir Con believed that the biggest mistake the UK made was in letting through the Common Fisheries Policy.

'Anglo-French reconciliation'

But in general he seemed satisfied with the deal Britain received.

"In considering therefore whether we got a good bargain, I am on the whole rather complacent," he said.

Sir Con admits that the real decision to let Britain enter the European Community had already been taken by French President Pompidou and Mr Heath.

He said their meeting had begun "an Anglo-French reconciliation which the events of the previous 10 years had made most necessary and desirable".

Under President de Gaulle, France had put a stop to negotiations about Britain's entry in the European Community in the 1960s, mainly over fears that English would become the dominate language.

Sir Con dismissed the opinions of sceptics who wished Britain had never entered into negotiations.

"If we fail to make a success of our new position as a member of the enlarged Community, then we would probably fail even more disastrously were we condemned to remain outside it," he wrote.

Sir Con died in 1988, aged 76.

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03 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Tories defend focus on Europe
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