The Commission and Britain’s First Application

  • Michael J. Geary


The British application for Community membership in 1961 led to the EEC’s first major crisis. Chapter 1 explores the role played by the European Commission after Britain submitted its application in mid-1961 through to the collapse of enlargement negotiations 18 months later. Unlike most accounts of Britain’s first and unsuccessful attempt at membership, the main focus of the chapter is on how the Commission responded to the British request and its influence over the subsequent negotiations. It addresses issues central to the Commission and fundamental to the enlargement question that arose because of the British application. These include: (i) the working relationship between the EEC’s institutions and in particular between the Commission and the Council; (ii) the type of Community envisaged by the Hallstein Commission; (iii) the conflicts within the Community over Britain’s membership; (iv) the views of the Council on the Commission’s role within the enlargement negotiations; and (v) the influence of the Commission on the negotiations and their outcomes. A central question that the chapter seeks to answer is how the Commission used the enlargement question to extend its influence in the policy and decision-making process.1 While a number of issues dominated negotiations between the British and the Community, such as agriculture, the chapter, of necessity, analyses just one, namely, the problem of accommodating Britain’s Commonwealth interests. The Commission played a prominent role in each issue negotiated, but an analysis of the Commonwealth problem reveals how that institution tried to, at the same time, create a role for itself and grab a certain amount of influence inside and outside the negotiations.


Member State Tariff Reduction Ministerial Meeting Commonwealth Country Honest Broker 
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  1. 30.
    Camps, Britain and the European Community, 1955–1963 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964), p. 376.Google Scholar
  2. 53.
    Beloff, The General Says No: Britain’s Exclusion from Europe (London: Penguin, 1963), p. 117.Google Scholar
  3. 106.
    D. A. Gowland and Arthur Turner (2000) Reluctant Europeans: Britain and European integration, 1945–1998 (London: Longman), p. 133Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Michael J. Geary 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Geary
    • 1
  1. 1.Maastricht UniversityThe Netherlands

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