HAROLD WILSON, WHITEHALL AND BRITISH POLICY TOWARDS THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITY, 1964-1967
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Britain's second attempt to seek membership of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1967 has widely been regarded as inevitable. This thesis traces the development of Britain's policy towards the EEC from the accession of the Labour Government in 1964 to the failure of the application for membership in December 1967. Drawing primarily on official British records, it takes as its premise that policy decisions must be reconstructed as they appeared to participants at the time. It therefore places as central the roles and attitudes of key ministers and officials. It seeks to elucidate three main historical themes. First, by assessing the detailed progress of policy, it examines Harold Wilson's own ambiguous attitude towards European membership. Second, it considers how the British approached the Community, analysing Cabinet's acceptance of the policy as well as the conduct of Britain's diplomacy towards the members of the Six. Third, it places Britain's turn to Europe within the context of wider decisions about Britain's foreign and economic policies. It shows that Wilson's policy towards membership of the EEC developed only gradually and under duress, as he initially hoped to create a free trade area in Europe. Wilson did agree to study the implications of membership early in 1966, yet the decisive turning point was the July 1966 sterling crisis. It offers a new interpretation of Britain's approach to the Community, arguing that Wilson's attitude towards the tems of entry emerged only gradually. Britain's diplomacy with the Six foundered on Britain's economic weakness and the ability of General de Gaulle to manipulate his European partners. Although this was a period of considerable transformation in Britain's global orientation, British policy did not represent a decisive break with the past. Decisions were taken reluctantly and piecemeal, in response to economic crisis.
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