840.00/2–849: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Douglas) to the Secretary of State


493. Re Satterthwaite BC phone call.1 General British attitude toward European federation realistic. They refuse to give idea lip service or enter into commitments which UK unable carry out or to be stampeded into impractical expedients which would prove unworkable and end in disillusionment. Immediate creation sovereign federal body rejected as impossible in diversified Europe, and British themselves not prepared surrender independence or jeopardize commonwealth relations for unreal objective. They are convinced that at this stage more can be accomplished by closer cooperation among existing governments working on specific mutual problems step by step. British appreciate importance such collaboration and believe possible to achieve success. With return her own self-confidence, UK assuming more and more responsibility toward Europe and has contributed by many specific actions to establishment of closer working relationship between free nations of Europe.

[Page 372]

In political sphere, following points emphasize British contribution:

Bevin made first move toward political unity in the West by January 22, 1948 proposal of Western Union.2
Great Britain took leadership in negotiation of Brussels Pact and has worked effectively with other signatories in organizations, established under it.
British and other four Brussels Pact powers are now arranging conference to establish Council of Europe to consist of Ministerial Committee and Consultative Assembly.

Decisions announced January 28 and February 5 in this connection have been received with enthusiasm by British press and public. General feeling is that real progress is being made in laying foundation for political organization. Although Assembly initially to have no constituent or legislative power it will nevertheless provide forum for discussion of common problems, furnish mechanism for expression of European public opinion and bring into being organization capable of growth and development.

British contribution to economic collaboration mostly via OEEC. Bevin acted promptly on suggestion in Marshall’s Harvard speech3 recognizing European economic recovery as essential not only for its own sake but as vital to Western defense. By end 1948, UK taking lead in OEEC to great practical effect, made major contributions to its functioning, largely responsible for devising and implementing intra-European payments plan. UK occupying position of most senior or [toward?] junior partners in ERP, playing dual role as beneficiary of US dollar aid and contributor of British sterling aid to Europe. Leadership among MP countries now accomplished fact, British influence and inspiration apparent in many attitudes and policies developed by OEEC and sets the pace in carrying out ECA policies, some of which contracting nations accept with reserve. British imprint evident in sections long-term program which insist on budgetary and fiscal reforms, concentration on essential production and promotion of exports at expense of domestic consumption, which is UK own pattern for recovery.

Outside of OEEC, British recognize that there is scope for economic collaboration promising more than sum of efforts of individual nations. Now taking active and serious interest in preliminary customs union studies, in reconciliation of European export-import programs, and in developing resources within Europe and colonial dependencies. [Page 373] Nevertheless, no disposition to resort to autarchy as solution. British long-term objective is multilateral trade and freely convertible currencies for general benefit UK, sterling area and Western Europe.

British approach has, therefore, been characteristically practical and specific rather than general and theoretical. It must be remembered, however, that throughout dominant motivation has been consideration of vital interests of the UK.

  1. Livingston L. Satterthwaite, Chief of the Division of British Commonwealth Affairs; no memorandum of this telephone conversation has been found.
  2. For text of this speech, see Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, 5th series, vol. 446, col. 383.
  3. Speech by Secretary of State George C. Marshall at Harvard University, June 5, 1947. For the text, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. iii, p. 237, or Department of State Bulletin, June 15, 1947, p. 1159.