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The Ditchley Foundation Lecture VI

28 July 1967
The English-speaking peoples in a changing world
Delivered by:
The Rt Hon Sir Robert Menzies, KT, CH, QC, Prime Minister of Australia 1939-41 and 1949-1966
For the purposes of this lecture, the ‘English-speaking peoples’ are not just all of those who speak English. The phrase is intended to refer to those nations whose predominantly common language is English—i.e. Great Britain and Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and, up to a point, South Africa.
That we live in a changing world is dramatically clear. Ever since the close of the Second World War, only a little more than twenty years ago, we have witnessed:
(a) The emergence of the Communist Bloc in Europe as an opponent in the ‘Cold War’, and a potential enemy in a hot one;
(b) The rise of Communist China in the Far East, rejecting coexistence and encouraging aggression;
(c) The almost complete disappearance of the British Colonial Empire;
(d) The conversion of former colonies into independent self- governing nations. So far and fast has this gone in the case of British colonies that, at a Prime Ministers’ Conference, there are about four times as many Prime Ministers present as there were before the war;
(e) The creation of the United Nations, with a Security Council (designed to be an executive body) which has been rendered ineffective in really great matters by the existence and use of the veto, and a General Assembly which claims more and more power without responsibility and is emotionally disposed to disagree with the ‘Western’ powers, which for this purpose include the English-speaking peoples;
(f) The active entry of the United States into world politics and economics.
As is not uncommon in human affairs, each of these developments, though some of them have been welcomed as a proof of human progress, has created new problems of its own.
I will give just one illustration of this.
A grant of political independence to a former colony does not mark the end of a journey; it marks the beginning of a journey through strange territory, along a road not clearly seen, with fresh difficulties at every turn.
And as this is a human journey, great psychological adjustments must be made, and a new imagination brought into play.
It is a not uncommon fault among those who invent Constitutions to devote their attention to the formal structure and to ignore the greatest question, which is ‘how will it work, if it works at all?’
Gulliver’s architect, who was devising a method of building a house from the roof down, has many modern counterparts. We (and the idea is equally prevalent in America) decide to endow a colony with self-government. A proclamation or constitution is prepared which will, it appears to be thought, in a single blow create democratic self-government. And then, when some of the leading ‘liberators’ turn out to be the new masters of their people, with any opponents suitably suppressed, we are surprised and disappointed.
And this is only because, although we have a great history, we have a sort of genius for forgetting it.
I am speaking here in a land which was the nurse of parliamentary self-government. But the child was of slow growth. Beginning with local government and county organizations, it developed the rudiments of a national parliament 700 years ago. But Parliament achieved its first measure of genuine power only in the seventeenth century. It was not a really representative Parliament until well on in the nineteenth century.
It evolved a Cabinet system by slow stages. But the Cabinet as the centre of Responsible Government—the great and most distinctive basic element in our system of Government—did not take its modern position until the defeat and resignation of Walpole in the eighteenth century.
If Parliamentary self-government has been the product of a slow growth in a land with centuries of civilization and a famous historical procession of great men, can it be rapidly achieved in a land of no history or, more accurately, a dark and troubled tribal history, with superstitions and local hatreds still visible and potent?
Now, I began by mentioning some of the changes we have lived and are living through. To discuss all of these would call for a large volume, and not for a single lecture.
So I will confine myself to a few which appear to concern the English-speaking peoples in a special way, since they affect our relations with each other as well as with others. Those relations are tremendously important not only for us, but, as I believe, the whole world. To preserve them, they must be understood, and the difficulties must be faced. To strengthen them will require a true belief in their importance.
The matters which I select for necessarily brief treatment are these:
1. There are in fact drastic changes in what some of us used to call the British Commonwealth of Nations.
2. There are in contemplation fundamental changes in the relationship of Great Britain to Western Europe; changes which may in their turn profoundly affect the nature and structure of the Commonwealth.
3. There are lively problems, clearly to be seen, though not easily soluble, in the relations between those English-speaking peoples whom I would compendiously describe as ‘British’ and the United States of America. I will say something about each of them.
Your distinguished Provost, my old friend H. V. Hodson, published in 1948 a book which he named Twentieth Century Empire. One of his themes was that ‘our nations can be greater, as well as safer and more prosperous, if they stand together than if they struggle alone’.
In the same year I took a long sea voyage and wrote a reasonably optimistic book which he was good enough to read in manuscript. It had passages which were, though I say it myself quite lyrical! But it was in many respects out of date by the time I finished it, and was therefore never published.
For, since 1948, both the structure and the character of the Commonwealth have been completely changed. As a participant and observer, I am describing these changes very critically in a book of recollections which will shortly be published. But I may, with advantage, summarize a few of my conclusions.
(a) The common allegiance to the Crown, which was the structural bond before the war, has, except for some of us, ceased to be so. Most of the new Commonwealth Members have become Republics. True, in form, they ‘recognize the Queen as the Head of the Commonwealth’. But this is an external recognition, and has no internal significance.
(b) The other great element in the Balfour formula, that the ‘Dominions’ were ‘autonomous communities’, ‘in no way subordinate one to another’, has, I fear, been largely abandoned under the pressure of some of the newer members of the Commonwealth.
For the word ‘autonomous’ connotes self-government, free will in relation to a nation’s own affairs. This significance is confirmed by the use of the word ‘subordinate’, with its connotation of subserviency.
Through several Prime Ministers’ Conferences I battled to maintain this conception of autonomy which seemed to me to be vital. To me a Commonwealth Meeting, which was a meeting of equals, with independence in relation to their own affairs, had, and should still have, great value as a meeting of minds and an encouragement of common ideas; a meeting designed to inform, but not to sit in judgement; not to have resolutions and amendments and votes, as if it were some agency of the United Nations, but to have a family gathering.
The measure of my failure is to be seen in the growing disposition to discuss the internal affairs of individual member countries, a disposition which culminated in the expulsion of South Africa and the taking to the United Nations of the Rhodesian problem, which was in my time expressly and unanimously conceded to be a matter between Great Britain and Rhodesia alone!
Frankly, this modern Commonwealth passion for interference, for the virtual denial of ‘autonomy’, seems to me to sound the death-knell of the old Commonwealth conception unless drastic changes of attitude occur. For no organization can survive or flourish unless it concentrates upon its elements of unity and so justifies its existence as an entity.
The last three Prime Ministers’ Conferences I attended devoted much of their time, not to the ventilation of differences, which can be a valuable educational exercise, but to the exacerbation of differences, which is a thoroughly bad thing.
It seems strange now to recall that there was a time when men like the late R. B. Bennett and myself had hopes of a common Commonwealth foreign policy.
It did not appear to be impossible at a time when those represented around the table were Great Britain, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand, though clearly, as populations grew and local national sentiments became stronger, the possibility would have weakened.
Today, of course, all this has changed. Common policy on any really controversial matter seems to be impossible. We cannot even secure a common line of resistance to aggressive Communism. One could go further and say that there is a considerable and dangerous disarray among members. We have witnessed the spectacle of two Commonwealth countries—Ghana and Tanzania—breaking off diplomatic relations with Great Britain, and Pakistan doing the same with Malaysia, while the brief armed conflict between India and Pakistan is an unhappy recent memory.
There was a time when, with a common Crown, it seemed unthinkable that a Commonwealth member could be neutral in a British war. How could the monarch be at peace and at war with the same nation at the same time?
But, like the bogus doctor in Moliere, we have changed all that. We have subdivided the Crown by an almost theological process. When, as Australian Prime Minister at the outbreak of war, I broadcast that ‘Great Britain has declared war and, as a result, Australia is at war’ there were later to be found those who were critical. I had in mind various considerations, one of which was that neutrality for Australia in a British war was impossible unless we were prepared to secede. This is now ‘old hat’. The Common wealth is now a somewhat amorphous mass of monarchists and republicans, the actively committed, the unaligned, the neutral, and the substantially hostile.
‘Bennett and Menzies, stand aside!’
And yet, there remained one practical element of cohesion; economic policy. We had constructed a great fabric of ‘imperial preferences’ which did us all a great deal of economic good.
These excited criticism in the United States, which curiously but understandably saw not the faintest resemblance between the complete absence of tariffs between forty-eight (or fifty) States, and modified tariffs between a dozen or so of British Commonwealth countries! Imperial preferences survived the attack.
The significance of these preferences may not be as clearly realized in Britain as it is in Australia. I shall therefore impose a few modern figures upon you. In the financial year 1965—6, Australia was Britain’s second largest export market. It was worth $A750m (or, in sterling, £300m). Of the goods which produced that amount, about 90 per cent received preferential treatment in the Australian tariff.
Australia has a similar interest and benefit. In the same year, Australia’s exports to Britain totalled $A475m (or, in sterling, £190m). More than 65 per cent of the Australian exports to you receive preferences.
You will see that your trade with us, profoundly encouraged by preferences, is making a not insignificant contribution to your balance of payments.
What the position will be after you enter Europe (if you do), nobody can accurately foresee. But one thing seems certain in my mind after reading the great debate in the House of Commons in May.
If you go in you will do so, in effect, unconditionally except for some not very precise expectations in relation to sugar and in relation to New Zealand. In the broad sweep, preferences will disappear—ours with you, yours with us.
This brings me to say something about the European Economic Community as a problem, your decision on which will be of material interest for all the English-speaking peoples.
Speaking frankly, and, I hope, with proper respect, I have never been able to understand why, when Great Britain, ten years ago, had the chance to become a foundation member of that Community, at a time when France was economically distressed and when Great Britain might have achieved favourable terms in relation to the Commonwealth, you found the arguments against membership conclusive; whereas now, with a strongly revived France, an overwhelming majority of all your parties rejects those original arguments as insubstantial.
But, in vital respects, this is your business and certainly not that of one who has retired from Australian politics and speaks only for himself.
Your distinguished leaders on both sides of the House (and I have a very genuine respect for them) are satisfied that, in spite of some obvious and substantial economic losses, the gains to be anticipated by the enlargement of what I will call your ‘home market’ will more than compensate for them; that European com petition in Great Britain will be more than met by increased efficiency and turnover on the part of your own industries.
As recently as on 4 July (American Independence Day) the Foreign Secretary made a statement at The Hague on behalf of the Government of Britain, a statement of historic importance.
In the course of it, he said:
‘We in Britain, no less than the present members of the Communities, do not see the issues only in economic terms. The balance of economic advantage for us is a fine one. Some of the most decisive considerations for us have been political.’
You are much more competent to evaluate and balance these considerations than I would ever profess to be. I am certainly not here to advocate a contrary view.
But there is another aspect of Britain’s projected entry into Europe which, in my opinion, an opinion which I expressed with some vigour at a Prime Ministers’ Conference, seems, except in the minds of a few, not to have received as much attention as I would have expected; though its importance is emphasized by the statement I have just quoted.
I am not an economist, but I ought to know something about the constitutional and political problems of association between States, having, as lawyer and as politician, been intimately associated with them for most of my adult life. Frankly, those problems are seldom vividly understood in this country, with its historic unitary system of government.
What I want to do here is to offer an observer’s view about the constitutional aspects of British entry into Europe, particularly as they concern what remains of the structure of the Commonwealth.
I do this with hesitation, because I want to say, with no mental reservation whatever, that I have a deep respect for your leaders, with many of whom I have worked in the past. I must pay great attention to their judgement, for they make it with responsibility. The looker-on does not necessarily see most of the game. So, please don’t regard me as one of those most tiresome people, retired politicians who ‘don’t know what these fellows think they are doing’.
However, when I have discussed this matter with my English friends, some of them have hastened to assure me that they are not contemplating entering a European Federation. ‘A confederation possibly, but not a federation!’
Well, what is a Confederation? How does it differ from a Federation?
The answer seems to be that a confederation lies half-way between a Federation—with its complete organic structure, a division of powers, and an intention of permanency—and a Treaty of the older kind, not designed to be permanent and not giving rise to institutions.
Precise definition is impossible. Quite a few modern treaties do give rise to institutions; e.g. NATO, SEATO, ANZUS, each of which has a Council and a central organization. But in such cases, while international obligations can and do arise, there is no derogation from the normal domestic authority of the individual nations concerned. Such treaties might, I suppose, be regarded as con federations of sovereign powers for limited and defined purposes.
The Lord Chancellor’s Paper (Cmnd. 3301) at page 3 seeks to deal with this matter as follows:
The Treaties contain provisions of two kinds. Some provisions describe the objectives which are agreed upon between the Member States, leaving it to them to achieve those objectives by legislative or administrative action—a method followed, for example, in the field of customs duties. Other provisions are intended to take effect directly as law in each of the Member States, e.g. the provisions relating to restrictive practices.
Treaty provisions of the former kind have hitherto been more usual, but provisions resembling the latter kind are by no means unknown to the law of the United Kingdom. They occur, for example, in various Conventions relating to carriage by air or by sea and to the regulation of sea fisheries, and are embodied in our domestic law by a series of Acts passed for the purpose.
The novel features of the European Treaties lie first in the powers conferred on the Community institutions to issue subordinate instruments which themselves may impose obligations on the Member States or may take effect directly as law within them; and secondly in the powers of those institutions to administer and enforce (subject to the control of the European Court) much of the law deriving from the Treaties and the instruments made under them.
On this statement I make one comment. International rules under treaties relating to carriage by air or by sea relate to clearly international problems whose domestic implications are secondary. It is interesting to recall that the operation in Australia, for some carefully defined purposes, of the International Air Convention, was upheld by the High Court in Australia under the ‘external affairs’ power of the Commonwealth.
‘Sea fisheries’ similarly have a truly international character.
It is, as I take the Lord Chancellor’s Paper to concede, a long step from such treaties to one which creates institutions which may exercise authority directly in relation to the domestic affairs of a State, including economic and financial policy and social provisions.
In short, I believe that the Treaty of Rome is a new kind of treaty.
This is, I think, not in dispute. The Lord Chancellor’s Paper, on page 8, says:
If this country became a member of the European Communities, it would be accepting Community law. By ‘Community law’ is meant the whole body of legal rights and obligations deriving from the Treaties or their instruments, whether conferred or imposed on the Member States, on individuals or undertakings, or on the Community institutions. A substantial body of legislation would be required to enable us to accept the law.
(To which I would add that once a party to and bound by the Treaty you would not appear to have any choice, or any right, to amend.)
Later on the same page the Paper says:
It would also follow that within the fields occupied by the Community law, Parliament would have to refrain from passing fresh legislation inconsistent with that law as for the time being in force.
True, for many years forward-looking observers have thought and spoken about the possibilities of a real international order, based upon observance of the law, and therefore involving an acceptance of a limitation of national sovereignty corresponding to the submission in your country or mine of individual sovereignty to the law of the land.
I do not quarrel with this; it gratifies my mind, though it does not warm my heart.
And therefore, if there is to be a truly United Europe, with Britain in it, one’s mind dictates an acceptance of a limitation of national sovereignty. If I could bring myself to believe that British entry into Europe was based on such a world conception, and that the example would be followed, I think that I would understand. In any event, I do want to make it clear that I am not foolish enough to seek to tell Britain what she should do about her own sovereignty. My only concern is to offer a view about the effect of her decision on the Commonwealth and on the English-speaking world.
I hope that I do not misrepresent the state of mind of my good friend Harold Macmillan when I say that I always felt that the political implications of entry attracted him even more than the economic considerations. This seemed to be in the nature of things. I doubt whether any living British statesman has a more compre hensive and detailed knowledge of modern European history than he has. Hostilities between European nations have produced the wars, great and small. If those nations could be brought together on genuine terms of amity and understanding, the cause of peace would be powerfully served; though, for myself, I find it impossible to share the utter optimism of your Foreign Secretary when he said in the House ‘Today, if we join the Community, the rivalries within Western Europe which led to two world wars would finally be silenced’!!
But it is easier to speculate than to affirm. I will therefore confine myself to these aspects of the matter on which I may have some small qualification to speak; constitutional aspects, particularly as they concern the future of the Commonwealth.
What would accession to the Treaty of Rome do initially to British sovereignty, Britain being the senior sovereign nation in the Commonwealth?
There would, of course, be no trial marriage, no locus penitentiae. Article 240 says: ‘This treaty shall be concluded for an unlimited period.’ This, one must assume, means permanency, unless all of the contracting parties agree.
But more than this, the Common Market is a legal entity, with an institutional structure of its own. It first recites that the contracting parties are ‘determined to establish the foundations of an ever closer union among the European peoples’ and then goes on to lay down many general rules for observance by member States.
For the direction and ‘ensuring’ of these rules, it creates:
These at once arrest the attention of one brought up on the doc trine of the Sovereignty of Parliament, and the practice of Responsible Government.
Article 138 provides that the Assembly shall be composed of ‘delegates whom the Parliaments shall be called upon to appoint from among their members in accordance with the procedure laid down by each member State’. So the British Parliament will appoint, from its members, say thirty-six members of the Assembly out of 178, assuming that it gets the same representation as Ger many or France.
The Treaty in relation to some very important domestic affairs and policies limits the sovereignty of each of its member Nations.
It certainly stops short of establishing a Federation of Europe in the sense in which we understand federal systems. There is, as I have pointed out, an Assembly; but it has no more than a nominal resemblance to a Federal Parliament with legislative powers over the entire population, with control over a Federal Government, and with an elaborate demarcation of powers between it and the Parliament and the Government of the constituent States.
The significance of the figures in the Assembly will of course vary with the structure of the scheme. In a Federation, any one State must expect to be in a minority in the Federal, or National Parliament, a Parliament which would, if the Australian or United States examples were followed, be empowered to deal with specific matters of over-all importance. But, of course, in a Federation, the ‘sovereign’ powers of States would be sharply limited, no State being ‘sovereign’ in the full sense.
If I am to accept the proposition that no European Federation need be anticipated, the significance of a minority representation in the European Assembly is such as to need special attention. Under the Treaty of Rome, Article 137, the Assembly ‘shall exercise the powers of deliberation and of control which are conferred upon it by this Treaty’.
Article 144 enables the Assembly to censure the Council and compel the resignation of its members.
The Council is composed of representatives of the Member States (Art. 146). Each party Government is to delegate a member. Except in cases particularly described, the Council decides by a majority.
The Commission seems to be the chief executive body.
It is at present composed of nine members chosen for ‘their general competence and of indisputable independence’. (As you will not fail to observe, rhetorical expressions are not verboten.) If we face up to the facts of life we shall realize that the Commission must be ‘full-time’; that it will be an appointed body; that it will be in no sense a ‘responsible government’; that, in effect, it will be a bureaucratic body.
Indeed, it is to be bureaucratic almost by definition, for under Article 157 ‘the Members of the Commission shall perform their duties in the general interest of the Community with complete independence’, and ‘in the performance of their duties, they shall not seek or accept instructions from any Government or other body’.
This is, by actual definition, bureaucracy to perfection. It rather shocks the eye of an innate democrat.
And this Commission, the actual directing body of the Market, will, under Article 163, reach its conclusions by a majority of the number of its members.
What does this mean? It would take an entire book to examine the Treaty of Rome in detail. The Treaty itself and its associated documents are as long as most books. But if you look at Articles 10, 14, 17, 20, 22 and a host of others dealing with what I will call ‘management’, you will realize that British accession to the Treaty of Rome must, in relation to many British domestic affairs, take these out of control of the Parliament of Westminster and the Ministers responsible to it.
Mr George Brown’s authoritative statement at the Hague confirms this view, and recognizes its implications. He said:
We recognise that the Community is a dynamic organisation which has already evolved and will continue to evolve. If it is to be true to the spirit of the Treaties which established it, the Community’s institutions will develop and its activities will extend to wider fields beyond the activities covered by the existing provisions of the Treaties. We believe that Europe can emerge as a Community expressing its own point of view and exercising influence in world affairs, not only in the commercial and economic but also in the political and defence fields. We shall play our full part in this process.
Therefore, Federation or no Federation, success in the current application would diminish Britain’s Parliamentary Sovereignty.
Now, I am not making this Lecture as an advocate. I have re tired from active politics and have no desire to re-enter them. The British views have, in and out of Parliament, been expressed with gravity and deliberation. I think that I understand them, and I certainly respect them. What I am now saying is said as an ob server, and not as a participant. And my observations are particularly directed to the political impact of British European entry upon the future of the Commonwealth, and upon the future asso ciation of the English-speaking peoples, including the United States of America.
With your permission, I turn aside to make one particular observation.
We are as yet only in very distant sight of the effects of British accession to the Treaty of Rome. An interesting result relating to the practice of medicine was recently pointed out in Australia by a noted physician, Sir William Morrow.
He said that:
‘Australia urgently needed a General Medical Council of its own if Britain joined the European Common Market.
This was highly desirable, because under present arrangements any doctor accepted by the British General Medical Council could receive registration to practice in Australia.’
Sir William also said that:
‘Once in the Common Market, Britain would probably have to accept those provisions in the Treaty of Rome, allowing free movement of all legally qualified doctors between member countries.
This could mean acceptance by the U.K. General Medical Council of doctors from Europe, who would not normally qualify for practice in Britain.
In turn, some of these doctors could obtain registration in Australia on the ground that they had been accepted by the General Medical Council in Great Britain.
The answer was an independent Australian General Medical Council.’
On the assumption I have made, that Great Britain, if her application succeeds, will adhere to the Treaty of Rome without reservations, the word ‘probably’ in Sir William’s statement should be replaced by ‘certainly’.
The European Economic Community may some day, but that day will inevitably be in the remote distance, evolve into a Federation. If and when it does, each nation party to that Federation will clearly cease to be a sovereign and independent power.
I have conceded that European Federation is a long way off. Italy is much more likely to desire it than France, an historic nation to which General de Gaulle has restored its pride. Even what seems occasionally to be the angularities of French policy are symptomatic of a revived nationalism, an element which does not lend itself to supra-nationalism.
Nor, pace Mr. Brown, are old hostilities so easily legislated or bred out of human nature and memory. I remember a long conversation with that great German—and European—Konrad Adenauer at Bonn years ago. He was as convinced of British hostility (I told him he had been reading the wrong newspapers!) as he was of French friendship. He had established close personal terms with de Gaulle, and was disposed to believe that the ancient enmity had gone. My reply was that I was delighted to hear it; but that the testing time would come when France and Germany found themselves opposed to each other on a matter of great moment which excited strong public feeling.
European Federation, if it ever happens, will, in my opinion, be a matter of long and slow growth over generations which will have acquired new memories. If the pedantically minded succeed in accelerating it, so that the building exceeds its foundations, the structure will collapse, and the last state of Europe may be worse than its first.
The achievement of European Federation would clearly not be easy. Let me take two examples. The American colonists spoke the same language, and not five or six, as the Common Market countries do today. They inherited a common literary history and tradi tion; they had in fact a common British history; they had similar notions of self-government. They had joined together in a war for independence and had, after great travail, succeeded. Yet it took the better part of a century and a dreadful civil war, to establish, once and for all, that the United States of America was really ‘united’, and that the States were not ‘sovereign’, independent and competent to secede.
If this view had not triumphed the United States would have been the Disunited States—two nations instead of one, to the immeasurable disadvantage of the world.
This is not just ancient history; it is modern in its implications; it can ‘point a moral or adorn a tale’.
The other example is that of my own country; one people, broadly one faith, one language, one history, one body of political ideas.
Yet it took many years to achieve federation. Even now, with over sixty-five years of Federal history behind us, we have seen how the balance in the Federation changes; how far and how fast the central or national power grows. But we have also learned how enduring are the local patriotisms of individual States.
It would of course be no more realistic to say that Great Britain’s position in the Commonwealth would be unaffected by Great Britain’s participation as a Constituent State in a European Federation than it would be to say that Australia could join another great Federation and still remain an independent, sovereign, ‘autonomous’ member of the British Commonwealth.
However, one must, perhaps, be more philosophical. As a man bred and experienced in the inevitable legalisms of federation, I may have become too rigid in my ideas. Since every other element in the Balfour formula has faded, perhaps the notion of member ship of the Commonwealth depending upon sovereignty in the State concerned may also disappear! Perhaps it may prove to be the fact that, even if federation should be achieved in a Western Europe including Great Britain, the anomalous position of Great Britain in our Commonwealth which would then emerge would be regarded as no more anomalous than many other innovations which have been accepted, and with which we have learned to live. But I doubt it!
Looking back on what I have written so far, I concede that I emerge as a pessimist; or a realist, as the case may be.
The British Commonwealth is no longer British. It has failed to identify and strengthen its elements of unity, and devotes more and more attention to its elements of discord. The new Commonwealth will either reverse these processes, or it will cease to be anything more than a name in the books of modern history.
I have stated, I think with moderation, what I believe would be the impact upon the Commonwealth structure of an unconditional accession by Britain to the Treaty of Rome, an accession which would ipso facto limit the sovereignty of Britain and could, if it grew into a Membership of a European Federation, bring about an elimination of that Sovereignty. I have pointed out, by way of analogy, that if Australia chose some day to seek and secure ad mission to the Federation of the United States of America as the 51st State—a proceeding which those who think as I do would vigorously resist—it could no longer be a member of the Common wealth or a monarchy.
Is there no alternative to these gloomy forebodings?
I think that there is.
Economically and politically speaking the English-speaking nations—Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa—have enormous resources and remark able elements of unity and mutual understanding.
If they strengthened their lateral associations and could so far forget old slogans as to give special treatment to each other, they would not only increase their own strength and aid in the development of their great resources but they could do great things for the advancement of what we call the ‘new world’.
For they embrace a large group of industrially and socially developed nations in an emerging world, in which financial and technical aid to new nations will represent a frustrating irony if it is negatived by trade and fiscal policies which limit or deny the entry to their markets of the encouraged export products of those they have intended to help.
World commodity agreements designed to assure reasonable access to the markets of the established and advanced nations at reasonably remunerative prices for the products of reasonably efficient producers are, in my opinion, essential to future world peace. The gap between those who have and those who have not must not be allowed to grow; it must, by all sensible means, be reduced.
The Western European nations have not, so far, been acutely conscious of this problem. They have, on the contrary, exhibited some symptoms of aiming at European self-sufficiency.
I hope that I am wrong in this. If a concerted Europe, including Britain, secured the manufacturing and industrial strength which is in contemplation, it would of course be a powerful exporter to the rest of the world. But trade must flow both ways; Europe must be a buyer as well as a seller. And what will she buy if, in the pursuit of that ‘will-of-the-wisp’ self-sufficiency, she has prohibitive tariff-barriers?
It may be replied, of course, that the United Nations will deal with this problem. But can we rely upon this hope? The record of the United Nations in major international affairs is poor. It is a blunt instrument; the Security Council ineffective and the General Assembly governed by sectional groupings and emotions, always ready to denounce the great Powers, apparently unconscious of the basic fact that it is on the willingness of those Powers to accept world responsibilities that a happy future for the world depends.
It will I hope clearly appear that my political and constitutional reservations about British accession to the Treaty of Rome are principally related to my strong belief that, not only for our own good, but for the peace, order, and good government of the world, the English-speaking peoples should not be divided. On the contrary, they should take every opportunity to create unity among themselves. Not organically, for that seems completely impracticable, but functionally and co-operatively.
If, as appears to be the case, the consideration of the British application is indefinitely postponed, what is the most important task for the future? It seems to me that, in the period ahead, serious consultations should be put in hand by Britain, the developed countries of the Commonwealth, and the United States, to deter mine whether special economic arrangements cannot be established.
It could not closely resemble the European Economic Community by the creation of a new Customs Union. Just as ‘Empire Free Trade’ was always an unrealistic pipe-dream, entirely un acceptable to Commonwealth countries like Australia, with new industries to develop under protective tariffs against cheap-labour competition, so it would be ridiculous to imagine that there could be a free-trade customs union with the United States.
Yet there would be considerable room for manoeuvre in the important fields of international commodity agreements relating to major primary products, international investment, and the development of new resources; to say nothing of the strengthening of our common principles of law and government.
There is an old saying in Australia, when a vital choice has to be made, ‘Sydney or the Bush!’ All or nothing as you might say. I hope that in Britain you will not believe that your only choice is ‘Europe or the Bush!’
It could turn out that the real choice was ‘Europe or the English speaking world’.