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Review: Why the General Said No

Reviewed Work: Documents diplomatiques français
Review by: Geoffrey Warner
International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-)
Vol. 78, No. 4 (Oct., 2002), pp. 869-882
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Royal Institute of International Affairs
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3095761
Page Count: 14
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Why the General Said No
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Abstract

Based upon recently published volumes of French diplomatic documents, this review article examines the course of the negotiations for British entry into the European Economic Community from 1961 to 1963 and the reasons why France vetoed Britains application. It is clear that even before the British government launched its application, the French government was aware of the threat it posed to the cohesion of the Community and to French interests. It therefore pursued tactics of delay. The British, who were in a hurry to join, vainly sought to convince the French of their conversion to the Gaullist conception of a confederal Europe that would be independent of both the Soviet Union and the United States, even dangling the prospect of nuclear cooperation before President de Gaulle. The latter's position inside France was relatively weak until he won a referendum on the direct election of the president in October 1962 and his party triumphed in the legislative elections the following month. De Gaulle then felt secure enough to tell Prime Minister Macmillan quite bluntly at their Rambouillet meeting on 15-16 December 1962 that he did not believe that Britain was ready for EEC membership. He had thus already made up his mind to exclude Britain before the Nassau agreement between President Kennedy and Mr Macmillan in which the former agreed to supply Britain with Polaris nuclear missiles, although this agreement confirmed his belief that Britain was excessively dependent upon the United States. Although economic questions-particularly those relating to the system of agricultural support and to Britain's request for special concessions to Australia, Canada and New Zealand-did play an important part in de Gaulle's decision, it is clear that political factors were uppermost in his mind. He did not want either a diluted Community or one in which there was a possible rival to French leadership.

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