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50 Years Ago: the Unification of Europe

The MacMillan Government, with the general support of the Labour Party and the Trades Union Congress, is going ahead with the scheme to associate Britain with a European free trade area that is being built up round a separate, more closely integrated “common market” of Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg.

The six countries in the “common market” aim by stages to abolish customs barriers and free movements of labour and capital within the area. The larger “free trade area” is a sort of half-way house to full integration; in particular British food production and imports would continue to be on the basis of preference for Commonwealth countries.

The motive for the decision of the Government to go in is the powerful one that British industry cannot afford to keep out. When the European “common market” area is formed, with a protected market of 50 million people,thus enabling mass production industries to operate on a scale that will justify the necessary enormous investments of capital, British manufacturers fear that they will be undercut, not only in Europe, but in world markets; for the 50 million population of Britain is far too small a market to serve as foundation for modernised industry.

For British Capitalism it is a question of getting into the European group or being crushed by the three great production areas that will then exist, America, Russia and United Europe.
(Editorial, Socialist Standard, March 1957)