The British Embassy to the Department of State


The new French note reveals the anxiety of the French Government in the face of pressure from their public opinion to “do something” about Spain. They have an erroneous belief in the possibilities of effective outside action to hasten the fall of General Franco and do not yet appreciate the unfortunate effects which their action to date in closing the Franco-Spanish frontier and stopping all trade with Spain have had in Spain itself. All the reports which have been received from His Majesty’s Embassy in Madrid go to show that this hasty action has caused considerable indignation among Spaniards. It is generally regarded as Communist-inspired and as an unwarranted attempt to interfere by means of outside pressure in Spanish internal affairs. It has in consequence only served to strengthen General Franco’s position.

The French Government, moreover, under-estimate the danger that more drastic pressure from outside, such as economic sanctions, may ultimately have a disruptive effect on the Spanish internal situation and result in chaos.
In any event, the steps suggested by the French Government in their note are unacceptable to H.M.G. H.M.G. are not prepared to enter into discussions with a view to deciding the kind of government which should succeed Franco. Not only would any attempt to choose a regime for Spain amount to direct interference in Spanish internal affairs, but any regime thus chosen from outside would for that very reason be unacceptable to the Spanish people.
As regards the three courses suggested by the French Government:—
His Majesty’s Government would only be prepared to recall their Ambassador from Madrid if they were satisfied that such a step would contribute to a solution of the Spanish problem and would not merely result in the loss to His Majesty’s Government both of the most effective means of exerting their influence on the Spanish Government and of their most reliable source of information in Spain;
His Majesty’s Government are opposed to the imposition of sanctions on Spain. The imposition of an oil sanction alone would be open to the same objections. We do not believe that it would bring about the immediate departure of General Franco. Its effect could only be gradual and cumulative, and, contrary to the views expressed in the French note, it would have a serious effect on the people’s food supply by disrupting the internal communications of the country. For the same reason it would increase the dangers of an eventual outbreak of civil disorder and revolution in Spain;
His Majesty’s Government see no advantage in a discussion of the Spanish question by the Council of Foreign Ministers nor do they consider it a suitable subject for discussion by the Council. Furthermore, this step would have the effect of bringing the Soviet Government directly into the picture, which His Majesty’s Government do not consider to be desirable at the moment. It is not likely that the Soviet Government would approve the policies of His Majesty’s Government and the United States Government towards Spain, and it might well be that the Soviet Government, if given an opportunity, would press for a course of action designed to bring into power an extreme left-wing government in Spain which would not necessarily correspond to the wishes of the Spanish people themselves.
In view of these considerations His Majesty’s Government are now considering the desirability of replying to the French Government along the following lines:—

“His Majesty’s Government have given careful consideration to the proposals set out by the French Government in their note. These proposals raise important considerations, the full implications of which call for careful examination. There are clearly considerable divergences between the British and French views as to the policy to be pursued towards Spain, and His Majesty’s Government believe that, with a view to reaching closer understanding on the matter, the best course would be to resume discussions between the British, United States and French Governments. His Majesty’s Government must, however, make clear that in making this proposal they are not committed to any of the courses of action suggested in the French note. Such discussions might usefully take place in London between the Foreign Office and the United States and French Embassies. His Majesty’s Government consider, however, that no publicity should be given to them in view of the adverse effect which any such publicity is bound to have in Spain (as recent publicity has shown).”

It would be the intention at these conversations to explain in detail to the French representatives the reasons for His Majesty’s Government’s objections to the policy of increasing pressure on Spain. His Majesty’s Government would emphasise the unfortunate effect which French action so far has had on opinion in Spain, and would explain the dangers, as they see them, of any recourse to drastic steps such as economic sanctions and the importance of avoiding anything calculated to provoke civil disturbance and revolution in Spain. [Page 1064]Finally, His Majesty’s Government would seek to impress upon the French representatives their point of view that the change in Spain must necessarily be gradual and that it can only be retarded by excessive outside pressure; and that in their view the most effective way of influencing Spanish opinion towards a change of regime is to continue’ to show their dislike for the present regime and to seek to bring home to the Spanish people the extent to which Spain is becoming isolated from the rest of the world by reason of the continuance of the present state of affairs.
The British Embassy is instructed to request an expression of the views of the State Department on this matter.