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‘The Parting of the Ways’?: Britain, the Messina Conference and the Spaak Committee, June–December 1955

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Abstract

The refusal to join early in the attempts to create the European Common Market is seen as one of the greatest mistakes of British post war statesmanship. In 1945 it seemed that Britain’s reputation, built up by its survival of the Nazi onslaught and participation in Europe’s liberation, stood high enough for it to take the leadership of the continental nations. But it was left instead to a group of six European states — France, West Germany, Italy and the Benelux states — to pursue a supranational future, first in the Schuman Plan of 1950, later in the European Economic Community. Several ‘missed opportunities’ for British diplomacy have been distinguished.1 The Labour government’s failure to take the European road in 1945–51 has already been analysed; so too has that of Winston Churchill’s government after 1951.2 The theme of this chapter is what was arguably the real ‘parting of the ways’, in 1955–6, when the Conservative government entered, then left, the talks which eventually led to the founding of the Common Market in 1957.3

Keywords

  • Trade Liberalisation
  • Custom Union
  • European Economic Community
  • Foreign Minister
  • Common Market

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Notes

  1. On this thesis see especially A. Nutting, Europe will not wait (1961);

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  2. N. Beloff, Transit of Britain (London: 1973);

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  3. M. Charlton, The Price of Victory (London: 1983).

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  4. On Labour and the Schuman Plan see: J.W. Young, Britain, France and the Unity of Europe,1945–51 (Leicester: 1984);

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  5. A.S. Milward, The Reconstruction of Western Europe (London: 1985)

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  6. G. Warner’s essay in R. Ovendale (ed.), The Foreign Policy of the Labour Governments (London: 1984 ).

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  7. On the Conservatives in 1951–52 see J.W. Young, ‘Churchill’s “No” to Europe’, Historical Journal, 28 (1985).

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  8. Notably, the after EDC’s failure, the Benelux memorandum avoided the term ‘supranational’. On Monnet’s ideas in this period see: J. Monnet, Memoirs (London: 1978), pp. 400–3;

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  9. H. Alphand, L’étonnement d’Etre (Paris: 1977) pp. 269–70;

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  10. R. Massigli, Une Comédie des Erreurs (Paris: 1978) pp. 504–8;

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  11. M. and S. Bromberger, Les Coulisses de l’Europe (Paris: 1968) pp. 170–95;

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  12. Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), 1955–57, Vol. IV (Washington: 1986) p. 279. On the ‘Beyen Plan’ see R.T. Griffiths and A.S. Milward, ‘The Beyen Plan and the E.P.C.’, E. U.I. Colloquium Papers (Florence: 1986).

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  13. N. Beloff, Transit of Britain (London: 1973) p. 90.

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  14. H. Macmillan, Riding the Storm (London: 1971) pp. 66–7; Massigli, Comédie op. cit., pp. 504–5.

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© 1989 Michael Dockrill and John W. Young

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Young, J.W. (1989). ‘The Parting of the Ways’?: Britain, the Messina Conference and the Spaak Committee, June–December 1955. In: Dockrill, M., Young, J.W. (eds) British Foreign Policy, 1945–56. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-10078-1_10

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