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‘Commonwealth and common markets’ by Eric Roll

Round Table 52/205 (Dec 1961), 7-19

UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s first bid to enter the “Common Market” or European Economic Community 50 years ago – and a key obstacle turned on the prevailing system of preferential trade agreements with Commonwealth countries.

Here Eric (later Lord) Roll, a leading member of the UK negotiating team, reviews the key issues, which encompassed a range of Commonwealth views ‘from the cautionary to the almost plainly hostile’. he insists that it is necessary ‘to compare not what is with what is proposed, but what is proposed with what might otherwise be’. As he explains, a UK ‘with a faster rate of economic growth, with wider trading possibilities, with a stronger voice in Europe, must be a more useful member of the Commonwealth’.

In the event, this first British application to join the European Communities was vetoed by President de Gaulle of France on 14 January 1963. It took 10 more years, and a third bid, before France relented and the UK joined the European Communities.

This is part of a series of articles dipping into the Round Table archives in 2021. Click here to find out more.