850.33/6–850: Telegram

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


3233. 1. Reference Embtel 3124, June 5, paragraphs 4 and 5 (repeated Paris 973, Rome 265, Brussels 136, Hague 124, Frankfort 278) commenting on underlying British motivation in releasing June 3 communiqué proposing ministerial meeting to discuss Schuman plan.

2. In very frank conversation yesterday with Embassy representatives Plowden,1 chairman British interdepartmental group studying all aspects Schuman plan, stated categorically British not preparing “counter-proposal” to Schuman plan as reported British press. He said it would be presumptuous for British Government, which is not party to impending negotiations, to offer a counter-proposal. Stevens, head Foreign Office German Section, also informed Embassy officer government not preparing “counter-proposal” but conducting studies with view to making suggestions as six-power discussions develop. These statements corroborated today by obviously government-inspired London Times article.

3. Plowden emphasized difficulties encountered by himself and associates in efforts analyze plan because of lack details and said in recent six-hour talk with Monnet latter was unable illuminate how plan would work. He expressed opinion Monnet himself highly uncertain re basic details of operation.

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4. Plowden vigorously denied British attempting “sabotage” plan. He described as completely untrue article in Paris L’ Aube, carried June 6 in London Daily Telegraph, that British motive in allegedly preparing counter-proposal was attempt hamper six-power conference and “recover initiative from France”. He said British Government fully aware political importance Schuman proposal and expressed personal opinion British would “support” plan, even at cost of some economic disadvantages, “provided there was reasonable assurance that plan would work”.

5. When asked if plan’s provision for supra-national authority constituted major deterrent to British participation, Plowden stated he personally did not believe it did but feared that emphasis given to supra-national character of authority might exaggerate in British public mind extent to which British might have to relinquish sovereignty if it became associated with plan. He added that responsible British officials are not unduly influenced by this aspect because they are aware British Government controls over economic situation are constantly subject to external and uncontrollable influences such as outside developments affecting UK imports-exports. He suggested there could be two kinds of supra-national authority, one of which might be acceptable to British but he did not develop this idea.

6. Plowden said British iron and steel leaders do not consider their interests would be greatly affected by British affiliation or failure to affiliate, but admitted question of affiliation much more important from standpoint coal industry. When asked whether British iron-steel industry might not be adversely affected if six-power continental authority without British decided to erect protective tariff wall embracing participating countries, he said he was less concerned over that possibility than possibility purely continental authority might, in time of economic recession, engage in dumping practices detrimental British industry. He assumed US also interested that aspect.

7. Plowden suggested possibility of some “third force” thinking in French motivation of plan (see Embtel 3125, June 6). He admitted this impression came from talks with Monnet and other indications that some of French enthusiasm for plan based on belief Germany, not USSR, was ultimately major threat to France and that if plan should remove that threat it would reduce French and indeed West Europe’s need to strengthen defenses.

8. Embassy representative asked whether Plowden felt Schuman plan conflicted with GATT and ITO principles. Plowden immediately replied that it did but assumed US would not raise issue. He felt there were provisions in GATT to permit exceptions to paragraph 5, Article [Page 726] 24. (Stephen Holmes, BOT, reacted similarly during informal discussion Tuesday.) Plowden continued that if UK did wish object plan it could do so directly through its High Commissioner.

9. Plowden repeatedly made point that British Government fully recognizes political potentialities of plan and left impression government desirous avoiding any further action which might either create impression that British attempting undermine plan or otherwise have effect of dampening enthusiasm for it. However, he carefully refrained from creating impression that British participation was probability and defence present “wait and see” British policy. Implication derived from his remarks was that Britain wishes to be in position to “support” plan, if political aspects make it appear desirable or necessary to do so and if economic cost not too great, but also be free act as necessary to protect British interests.

10. I believe statement[s] of Plowden, who is intimately involved in government consideration Schuman plan, honest and sincere but I am not yet certain that they accurately reflect attitude some still higher government officials whose influence I suspect was primarily responsible for issuance proposal in June 3 communiqué which they knew had been previously rejected by French. While I believe French were not entirely without blame in their handling that matter, I recognize their attitude probably conditioned by previous experience with British approach question European integration. Plowden’s statements obviously leave several important questions re basic British position unanswered but if his general attitude toward plan is or will become official British attitude my suspicions re underlying and devious British motives expressed Embtel 3124, may prove unfounded.

11. From several sources it now seems quite probable that, although some of the members of the British Cabinet sincerely welcome the French initiative as exemplified by the Schuman proposal, Bevin, himself, preferred either (a) to strangle it by protracted discussions, or (b) to remodel it quite drastically. These sources indicate he was largely responsible for the British communiqué in which there was made the suggestion of a ministerial meeting in the face of HMG’s knowledge that the French had previously found it unacceptable.

With Bevin now in the hospital and with Attlee, more favorable to the plan than Bevin, playing larger role in foreign policy, there may develop a gradual modification of the British position.

Sent Department 3233, repeated information Paris 993, Rome 274, Brussels 145, The Hague 133, Frankfort 287.

  1. Sir Edwin Plowden, Chief Planning Officer, British Treasury.