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50 Years Ago

Britain and the Common Market
  The Common Market has become a burning issue for British capitalism. After being convinced for years that it would fail, the Government has now belatedly realised that it may after all be here to stay. But so late have they left it, and so long have they dithered, that if they are to do something about joining they must do it quickly. Otherwise, it will be impossible for them to jump on the bandwagon at all.

Hence Mr. Macmillan’s somewhat panicky efforts to get matters straight with the Commonwealth and his undignified haste to prepare the ground at home.

For it is clear that the issue of whether Britain should go into the Common Market is causing a lot of heart-searching in many quarters. Not only is the Government worried, but industry, the Commonwealth, the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, even the trade unions. And not only worried, but very much divided. Even allowing for the fact that the Labour Party has long abandoned all pretence of being anything but an appendage of capitalism, it is indeed strange, for example, to see Mr. Michael Foot and Viscount Hinchinbrooke lined up against Britain’s entry, at the same time as Mr. Shinwell vies with the Daily Express in concern for the Commonwealth. And on the other side, Mr. Woodrow Wyatt, Rev. Donald Soper, and Lord Home certainly make an odd collection!

As far as industry is concerned, to the giants like I.C.I., the whole question is academic. They are going into the Common Market regardless of what decision the British Government may take. Confident of being able to compete on equal terms with the Europeans, the only thing they are afraid of is being left outside. On the other hand, there are many industries and firms that are very much afraid of meeting European competition and who are consequently violently opposed to going in.

(Editorial, Socialist Standard, July 1961)