Foreign relations 1951-64- EFTA and attempts to join the EEC

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The foundation of the EEC and what it was

  • 1950- the Schuman Plan set out proposals for a Coal and Steel community that would integrate French and German heavy industry, to promote rapid economic reconstruction and bind together the historic enemies to reduce the risk of another war between them 
  • This was the foundation of the European Economic Community (EEC) 
  • The EEC was an economic union, also known as the common market, established by the Treaty of Rome in 1957
  • Its six founding members were France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands 
  • The EEC scheme was supported by Britain and the US as an important contribution to the security of Europe and was seen as vital at the beggining of the Cold War (tension between the West and Communist states after the Second World War) 
  • However, Britain did not initally become involved in the European Economic Community 
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Why Britain did not initially join the EEC

  • Few politicians or journalists were in favour of Britain taking up the leadership role in Europe that was on offer 
  • Left-wingers tended to be suspicious of free-market principles behind the Common Market
  • The Right wanted to preserve trade links with Australia, Canada and New Zealand and saw these as more important than European trade links 
  • Many assumed Britain was still a great world power (no need to join the EEC) 
  • Britain wanted to balance its involvement in Europe with maintaining the 'special relationship' with the US 
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The formation of the EEC

  • Took shape at an international conference at Messina, Sicily 1955 
  • A British delegation was present, not to join, but to observe 
  • Agreements developed and the Treaty of Rome launched the EEC in 1957 
  • The EEC was dominated by the partnership between Germany and France 
  • From 1958, the French President de Gaulle was determined to protect the partnership from 'les Anglo-Saxons' (Britain and the influence of the United States) 
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The EFTA

  • 1957- it was not clear how successful the EEC would be but within a short space of time British attitudes towards it began to change 
  • 1959- Britain formed the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) 
  • The EFTA was created in 1960 by Britain, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland as an alternative to the EEC, sometimes reffered to as the 'outer seven' as opposed to the 'inner six' 
  • However, the EFTA was only moderately successful and was not able to match the economic growth of the EEC 
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Why did Britain want to join the EEC in 1961?

  • 1961- Macmillan government submitted Britain's application to join the EEC
  • The fundamental reason for applying was economic, for example joining would:

- boost industrial production for a large-scale export market 
- increase industrial efficiency with greater competition 
- stimulate economic growth with the rapid economic expansion already seen in the EEC 

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Why the United States supported Britain joining th

  • Strategic reasons 

- Britain was a vital link between Europe and America 

- Tensions were rising late 1950's in the Cold War 

- Belief in Britain's imperial power had been shaken due to the Suez Crisis and decolonisation in Africa 

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Why Britain failed to join the EEC in 1963

  • Britain wanted to keep its position in two other areas of world affairs 

- the Commonwealth

- the United States

  • Involvement in the Commonwealth made negotiations difficult because the EEC already had detailed economic structures developed, for example the Common Agricultural Policy which Britain found difficult to conform to 
  • EEC rules would have blocked special exemptions for Britain's Commonwealth trade partners, such as lamb exports from New Zealand 
  • Many months of hard bargaining by Heath, Macmillan's chief negotiator, took place, though it seemed a conclusion had been reached in January 1963, de Gaulle vetoed and blocked Britain's application to join the EEC 
  • This intervention by de Gaulle was a shock to both Britain and the other five members of the European Economic Community 

- His intervention caused bad relations between France and Britain and meant Britain remained outside the EEC 

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