The revival and success of Britain’s second application for membership of the European Community, 1968-71
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On 19 December 1967, France formally imposed a veto on British entry to the European Community. The Labour government of Harold Wilson had applied for membership of the Community in May of that year, but the French, in accordance with the views of their President, Charles de Gaulle, implacably opposed enlargement negotiations. Yet just three and a half years later, in June 1971, accession negotiations between Britain and the Community recorded agreement on the critical issues, thereby removing the major diplomatic obstacles to British membership. Why this turnaround in fortunes occurred, and what contribution the governments of Harold Wilson and Edward Heath made to it, are the questions at the heart of this thesis. In its analysis of these historic events, this thesis provides numerous new findings. It re-interprets British actions in relation to the controversial ‘Soames affair’ of February 1969. It demonstrates the impact of The Hague summit upon the cost of British membership, and shows how this influenced internal debate about the case for joining the Community. Fresh light is shed upon the critical phase of the accession negotiations between January and June 1971, both in regard to Pompidou’s actions and motivations, and the role of the May 1971 Heath-Pompidou summit in the successful outcome. The thesis is based primarily upon British governmental sources held at the National Archives. The private papers of key participants have also been consulted, as well as parliamentary debates, political diaries, memoirs, and newspapers. In addition, the papers for the presidency of Georges Pompidou, deposited at the Archives Nationales, are employed to illuminate French actions at the two pivotal moments of the accession negotiations: the impasse of March 1971; and the Heath-Pompidou summit two months later.
AuthorsFurby, Daniel Edwin
- Theses