740.00/2–250: Despatch

The Chargé in the United Kingdom ( Holmes ) to the Department of State


No. 503

Subject: Embassy appraisal of Britain’s position towards political integration of Europe.

In compliance with the instructions contained in the Department’s circular telegram of December 1, 1949, 5 a. m., I have the honor to submit the attached appraisal1 of the British attitude towards the political integration of Europe. A companion piece which examines [Page 769] the United Kingdom position on the European economic integration is in the process of completion and will be forwarded to the Department in a few days.

The present study was prepared by William C. Trimble in consultation with Messrs. Samuel D. Berger, James C. Sappington, 3d, Miss Margaret Joy Tibbets and, in particular, Miss Frances E. Willis2 from whose previous reports a great portion of the material included was drawn. It has been reviewed and approved by me.

The principal conclusions reached on the basis of this study are as follows:

The British have never accepted the concept of a political integration involving any transfer of sovereignty to a central political authority and regard as Utopian proposals for a United States of Europe. We do not see any prospect of a change in this position.
To the British, Western European political unification means a close and effective collaboration among the existing sovereign states of Europe, with unity of action achieved through consultation and agreement on problems of common concern.
The British believe that unification even in this form can only come about gradually as the countries learn to work together.
We feel that substantial progress has been made during the past two years to develop intra-European cooperation in this sense. However, we also feel that the momentum has declined in recent months as result of a diminution in the pressures which occasioned the initial measures of cooperation.
The British are convinced that any additional measures taken with respect to European unification must be compatible with the United Kingdom’s position in the Commonwealth and its special relationship to the United States.
The British regard the Council of Europe as being in the formative stage and believe that given proper guidance and realistic leadership, it may evolve into a durable European association whose ultimate form no one can now visualize.
The United Kingdom is not presently giving the Council the leadership necessary to hasten this evolutionary process, and we do not see much prospect of Britain resuming this role unless there is a recrudescence of the forces that first compelled her to take the initiative.
We feel that the outcome of the general election will not result in any important modification of Britain’s basic attitude toward political integration.
“The British reluctance” to push ahead has led to much criticism, but it would be unrealistic to expect any alteration in the British approach which is determined by deep-seated qualities of the British character.
In sum, we feel the British will continue to seek closer political cooperation among the nations of Western Europe but as each new proposal is advanced they will continue to ask “Will it work?”.

J. C. Holmes
  1. Not printed.
  2. Trimble, Berger, Sappington, and Willis were First Secretaries and Consuls of Embassy in the United Kingdom; Tibbetts was Attaché at the Embassy.