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Brexit and Beyond

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Courtesy Reuters
Foreign Affairs From The Anthology: Brexit and Beyond
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Britain, the Six and the World Economy

When France and Germany, with Italy and the three Benelux countries, made it clear that they were really going to form a customs union, they forced the British government to face a decision it had hoped to avoid. Now Britain's decision to join the Common Market, if reasonable terms can be agreed on, requires the United States to make some major decisions of its own. Our action-or the lack of it-will pose new choices for the rest of the world.

The British decision followed a long reexamination of the courses open to the United Kingdom once the Six had left little doubt-especially by their decision of May 1960 to accelerate tariff reduction-that they would succeed in creating a common market. Conversations in Europe, including those following the Adenauer-Macmillan talks of August 1960, presumably gave the British a reasonably good idea of the terms they would have to meet if they chose to go in. On the assumption that the Europeans would concede some essential points, the Prime Minister worked at building popular support at home and a majority in the House of Commons of a size appropriate to so fundamental a decision. The explicit opposition that remains-strongest at opposite ends of the Tory and Labor parties but scattered throughout the country-will undoubtedly gain recruits as a result of some of the compromises the government will have to make as a condition of entry. Concern for the Commonwealth will also influence votes. Still, the decision to seek entry could hardly have been made except in the belief that in the end the fundamental conviction would prevail that in the future Britain will be better off in the new Europe now taking shape than outside it.

Of course it takes two-or in this case seven-to make an agreement. Though the major champions of European integration have always said they looked forward to the time when Britain, and others, would join the Six, there has been opposition to British entry on the Continent as well as

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