the blackpool Resolution on the Common Market leaves the matter open. As the facts which George Brown is waiting for are revealed one by one over the next months of negotiation we can either press our opposition to Britain’s entry or allow the concessions that will be obtained to lull us into accepting that the minimum conditions of the Resolution have been satisfied. For there is little doubt that some concessions will be won by the Government at least for British, Danish and New Zealand agriculture and that some general understanding will be reached about Article 92, which limits government action in constraint of the free working of market forces.
At this point we shall be faced with a Government decision to join the Community, with full support from Labour’s Common Market enthusiasts and from the “practical men” who will tell us that there is no alternative but that we must make the best of it. If we are to maintain our opposition to Britain’s entry, we have to establish right now that there is an alternative with which Labour can rally the country in opposition to the Government. The Common Market may or may not be an issue on which an election can be won, but positive neutralism including an alternative to the Common Market and some real economic initiative at home towards planned modernisation of the economy provides just that.
Policy for Peace plus the Resolutions on Polaris and German bases and the speeches at Conference were much closer to neutralism than might have been supposed from the vote rejecting the T. & G.W.U. motion. But the weakness of this neutralism, based on appreciation of the danger and uselessness of nuclear threats, is the lack of a parallel economic policy to make neutralism viable. Without this the neutrals cannot be rallied with sufficiently unwavering strength to bring the necessary pressure upon the two great nuclear powers to disarm. This is where the presentation of a quite specific alternative to the Common Market for the future of Britain’s trade and the growth of the British economy become an essential part of a policy of positive neutralism.
What should this policy be? An alternative to the Common Market has to meet the main lines of argument that have been adduced in support of it at Blackpool and elsewhere and which are bound to be pressed ever more strongly over the next few months.
There are three main economic arguments: Modern industry needs for its efficient development a tariff-free market of over 50 million people, preferably over 200 million, and no other group of countries except the Six is prepared to offer this; our economy needs the stimulus of competition after its years of protection at home and privilege overseas; if we don’t join, we shall be excluded by the high Common Market external tariff and the growing share of our exports going to the Six will suffer.
Our objection to this solution to our trade problems is that the Common Market is itself highly protectionist. Behind its high walls our trade with the Commonwealth and EFTA and other lands outside would be reduced and the industrialisation of the underdeveloped lands would be held back, even those which were associated in the manner of the French colonies with the Common Market. This last would be the inevitable result of putting up barriers to free import of primary products, while trying to break down the walls behind which primary producers are beginning to develop their own infra industries. The great lesson we must learn from our Commonwealth history, is that it paid us to help the USA, Canada, Australia, etc. to industrialise; they are now our best markets. Where we have failed so far is to continue the process outside the lands of European settlement.
Our objection to the Common Market as a solution to Britain’s economic problems is that the whole trend of the Rome Treaty is to encourage the free working of market forces. Planning, like the French planning, is limited to co-ordinating growth (while it lasts). No discriminatory controls between industries or between regions are to be permitted. The motor industry can over-expand while social services decay. The Ruhr and lower Rhine valley can become even richer, while southern France and southern Italy are increasingly impoverished. This is only to repeat the story of the southern United States or nearer home the anarchic concentration of British industry in the south and the movement of British capital into the USA and then into Europe, while Scotland and the North of England are allowed to decay, with all the social waste that this agonising process involves.