5. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • U.S. Position on European Economic and Political Integration


  • Mr. George Ball, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs
  • Sir Harold Caccia, British Ambassador
  • Mr. David Pitblado, Economic Minister, British Embassy
  • Mr. G. Lewis Jones, Minister-Counsellor Designate, American Embassy, London, England
  • Mr. J. Robert Schaetzel, Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs
  • Mr. Richard D. Vine, Bureau of European Affairs, RA

The British Ambassador came in at Mr. Ball’s request to discuss the U.S. position on European economic and political integration.

Mr. Ball began by referring to the position that had emerged out of his conversations with Heath and the President’s conversation with Macmillan. He noted that it was very important indeed that the UK and all other countries involved have a clear and exact understanding of our policies in this regard. He gave Sir Harold an aide-mémoire which [Page 10] spelled out ours in some detail (see Circular 1722).1 He stated that he wished particularly to emphasize three points:

1) That this was something we were not urging.2

Before Mr. Ball could go any further Caccia interjected to inquire what that something was. Prime Minister Macmillan understood it to mean the organization of the whole industrial world, but while waiting for this longer-term result Europe should organize itself more closely as an interim step. The question is, therefore, is the UK to go into Europe as a step in a process, or does the United States envisage the organization of Europe as a separate thing and an end in itself.

Ball stated that we saw the problem as political. Both Germany and France have strong potential which would tend over the long run to make the EEC an inward-looking organization. Britain is a force that can bring cohesion to this movement, but he wanted to stress that he meant Britain and not the Seven as a whole. He also wanted to make clear that this was not a position which we advanced. Ball noted that in his conversation with Heath he was asked what we had in mind as pertained to the UK and he replied.

In terms of the future of European integration, Ball said, Britain is a major pole of attraction for several countries in the Community and tends to be a disruptive force in the pattern of European integration so long as it remains outside the framework. Moreover, we had a great respect for British political genius. If it were brought to bear on the organization of Europe, we would go forward with more assurance with an Atlantic arrangement.

As far as the Seven were concerned, Prime Minister Macmillan indicated to us that the NATO members of the Seven would not have much difficulty on the principle of joining, although there would be difficulties of detail.

Sir Harold showed Mr. Ball an account of the most recent German-British bilaterals in which the clear point emerged that the Germans thought it would be a pity if the British were not steadfast on a derogation for agriculture. Moreover, it seemed clear that the Germans were prepared to see the British in on very liberal terms.

Mr. Pitblado said that the UK was tied to a contractual relationship, however, which was more than a trade relationship. Sir Harold further stated that the UK could not say “go jump” to its EFTA partners. This would be damaging to UK prestige. It would not, moreover, be designed for increased unity, but “designed for slaughter.”

[Page 11]

Mr. Ball stated that this would clearly make for difficulty in the negotiations. He thought the question of EFTA depended largely upon how it was handled, and that we saw no difficulty in talks in two stages.

Sir Harold specifically addressed himself to that part (paragraph eight) of the aide-mémoire dealing with our position on a Six-Seven accommodation and making a distinction between this and the accession of those countries who could assume the obligations of the Rome Treaty. To put it crudely, he said, if the UK were to stand honorably on its commitments to the Seven, the United States would not lend it its support.

Pitblado then stated that the Swiss and Swedes would have real difficulty in meeting the obligations of the Rome Treaty.

Ball said that in his view, if the British, Norwegians and Danes were to join then after the dust had settled, some commercial arrangements might be worked out for the Swiss and the Swedes. Otherwise, he said, it would be very difficult for us to do anything. If the negotiations were carried out in one package, he said, it would be on the basis of the lowest common denominator, which would badly weaken the final result. He believed it would be a mistake to clutter up the negotiations at the beginning. It would probably not be negotiable as a total package; it should be taken in steps and probably then could be negotiated. We could assume that there would also be later special arrangements for Finland, Austria, and Portugal.

Sir Harold said that this was a prescription for the destruction of Europe. This formula was quite different from what the Prime Minister had understood, and was not designed for the increase of unity in Europe but its destruction. Taken at its face, our position was fairly absolute and was aimed at the “bustup” of EFTA. Did he really mean that?

Mr. Ball said that as regards a Six-Seven accommodation we were firm in our view, but that the difficulty was not in this, but rather in negotiating technique, which we believed should be staggered. The Swiss and Swedes and others must accept as we have done the fact of the EEC and learn to make adjustments if they are not prepared to accept the obligations and responsibilities of the Rome Treaties. We would have great difficulty in accepting the principle of derogations to take account of the special problems of any country.

Mr. Schaetzel pointed out that this was a straightforward continuation of our policy which was based on the idea that the age of preferences was dead. Pitblado said that Britain was engaged in solemn political obligations.

Sir Harold wished to recapitulate to make certain that he had understood our position correctly. First, there was to be a “bustup” of EFTA. Secondly, the UK would negotiate. Finally, the others would be picked up at a later time. This was unthinkable, he said. He turned to the [Page 12] statement of our views on EFTA. It is more than a commercial arrangement, he said, and cited the Finnish case. If this was our position, he said, a great many questions would be raised in London, for it implies that the UK has to “rat” on its obligations and simply put its signature on the Treaty of Rome.

Mr. Schaetzel pointed out that this had been raised before in London in a thorough discussion of the problem and had not seemed to raise any serious obstacle.

Breaking up the EFTA, if it were discussed in London, was something Sir Harold said he had not been informed about. It must have been incorrectly assumed that the UK would “rat on its partners.” The UK has made clear from the beginning that a settlement would have to include the problems of obligations to EFTA and the Commonwealth and the agricultural problem. Mr. Ball pointed out that this was an overstatement, since the British public statements on this subject had indicated only that these problems would have to be taken into consideration. If this was the British viewpoint, this was a new understanding as far as we were concerned, since our thinking has been of the negotiations proceeding in two phases.

Sir Harold inquired whether the US seriously thought that the UK would simply take a blank check and disregard its other commitments. It was not the greater unity of Europe which we appeared to have in mind, but a far smaller thing. Mr. Schaetzel pointed out that if the UK were to join the EEC this would provide a much greater unity and that one could not compare moves of Switzerland or Sweden with moves the UK might make. They were not at all of the same order.

Mr. Ball stated that clarity of view was absolutely essential to our relations. He wished to make it clearly understood that he was representing ideas which were approved by the President. (Sir Harold quickly asked whether the President has seen and approved this aide-mémoire. Mr. Ball said he had not although the ideas represented therein had been thoroughly discussed with him and approved by him.) Mr. Ball agreed that there might have been a possibility that the views could have been interpreted two ways and during the meeting between Macmillan and the President there was insufficient time to go into them thoroughly. It is possible that Mr. Macmillan did not understand our view on the phasing. Sir Harold agreed and welcomed this exchange of views in the interest of greater understanding.

There was a short discussion of the French views on the whole problem. Sir Harold believed there was considerable doubt that the French would have the UK on any terms. Mr. Ball stated that we believed it was a question of the scope of a settlement and the extent of derogations, and if satisfaction could be gotten on these, the French would probably not be an obstacle.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 375.800/5–261. Confidential. Drafted by Vine and approved in B on May 11.
  2. Not found. A copy of the aide-mémoire, which stressed U.S. support for the principles of economic and political integration laid out by the Treaty of Rome, was transmitted to London in circular instruction CW 788, July 27. (Ibid., 375.800/7–2761)
  3. The other two points were never enumerated in the memorandum.