247. Memorandum of Conversation Between Secretary of State Rusk and Foreign Secretary Brown1


  • UK Entry into EEC

The Foreign Secretary said that the British Cabinet will probably take a positive decision in about the next two weeks to apply for British entry into the Europe Economic Communities. The debates in the Parliamentary Party so far have gone much better than had been hoped. There was a larger majority in the Parliamentary Party in favor of entry than in the Cabinet. There is no real political problem about this and the House of Commons will certainly approve.

The British would like to take their Cabinet decision about May 4. They will have to announce it publicly and would aim for Parliamentary debate straight away. Immediately after the Parliamentary debate they would submit their application to the EEC. Since vacations begin in July the British must apply by May in order to accomplish something before the vacation period. The House recesses on the 12th of May for two weeks. Brown will be in Moscow the last week of the recess and then immediately after his return Prime Minister Wilson goes to Canada for Expo ’67. Unless they take their decision the week before the recess the application would not get in before June and after the Rome EEC Summit Meeting, a situation the British wish to avoid. If the Kennedy Round is not out of the way the British could wait until May 8 at the latest. They wondered whether submitting their application while the Kennedy Round is still in process might give the French a handle to create difficulties and possibly torpedo the KR. The British don’t think so but would like to check with us.

Mr. Leddy thought that coming so close to the end of the KR it seemed unlikely the British application would affect it adversely. However, he asked for time to check this point with others and promised to get a message to the Foreign Secretary before his departure.

(After discussing the question with Assistant Secretary Solomon and Mr. Bator of the White House Mr. Leddy informed Ambassador Dean that we hoped the UK would target for May 8 rather than May 4; that at the moment the KR was in a state of semi-crisis; and that he thought it might be a good idea for the UK to take another look at the status [Page 560] of the KR about May 1 and talk with us again to see whether there was likely to be any problem.)

The Secretary asked whether there was anything we could do to help the British. We had been remaining quiet because we felt that any open support by us would simply be counter-productive. The Foreign Secretary said, “not now,” but later perhaps we could help to stiffen the Germans a bit. Some of the Germans are so desirous of re-creating Franco-German amity on the basis of the ’63 treaty that they may need a little bolstering at the right moment. Contrary to press reports the Germans have not urged or suggested to the British any delay in their application.

In response to a question, the Foreign Secretary said the British were preparing a short, simple and clean application. There will be no conditions in the application but these will be made clear in a statement to be made in the House of Commons after the British Cabinet decision. He did not believe these “conditions” would provide the General with a basis for exercising another veto. While there are divided opinions in Britain on this question the majority of British officials believe that the General will not be able to veto their application either at the beginning or during the course of the negotiations but that the French will try to stall and protract the negotiations as long as possible. The Foreign Secretary said that at his last meeting with General de Gaulle he had the impression the General was very uncomfortable about France’s isolated position on this question.

The Secretary said that if the US could help at any time that the British should let us know. He suggested that in the statement to the House of Commons a word other than “conditions” might be used (the Foreign Secretary agreed). He expressed the hope that when the British got into Europe they would do something to end Europe’s isolation from the rest of the world. Europe’s attitude seemed to be one of exclusive concern with their own problems and indifference with respect to everything else. He had tried to stimulate NATO’s interest in the Middle East and Africa, which were right next door to Europe, but to no avail. The Foreign Secretary said that the British have this very much in mind but that obviously for the moment they were not going to advertise it.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, EEC 6 UK. Secret. Drafted by Leddy. The conversation was held in Rusk’s dining room.