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Brexit: Forty-Five Years On

18 Oct 2017

On 19-21 October 1972, the Heads of State or Government of the six founding Member States of the European Communities, and of the three states – Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom – which were to enter the Communities on 1 January 1973 in its first enlargement, met in Paris at the invitation of French President, Georges Pompidou. The leaders met in the Salons Kleber at the international conference centre which had been the venue of the long-running Vietnam Peace Conference. The nine leaders included the Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, the UK Prime Minister, Edward Heath, the German Chancellor, Willy Brandt and President of the European Commission, Sicco Mansholt.

The leaders addressed the meeting, setting out their views and aspirations for the enlarging Community. For the United Kingdom the Prime Minister, Edward Heath, spoke in terms which have a particular resonance today:

For you and for the other existing members of the Community this Conference marks the accomplishment of the process you set in train at The Hague three years ago. For us who are now joining you, it marks the attainment of an objective that has cost us much effort and perseverance. For us all it will point the way towards the future that we shall build together.

So we are here to consolidate what has been achieved; to set the seal upon the enlargement of the Community; and to address ourselves to the future, to the deepening and developing of the Community, to the work of growing together in strength and prosperity, for the good of all our peoples and the benefit of the wider world. This is where the challenge lies. We are at the point where we can begin to realise the wider opportunities for which this Community was created – the European idea that lay in the minds of its founders.

Of course we must work with a sense of priorities and within the limits of what is practicable. The development of the Community cannot be achieved by new formulae, new procedures, new machinery conceived in a vacuum. That is why it is right that we are discussing first the economic and monetary development of Europe. In this we are building on what has been created, and laying the basis of economic strength on which our effectiveness in the world will depend. What we are discussing is no less than a political commitment to manage the economic and monetary affairs of a Europe in harmony and ultimately in unison; a union which, if we can achieve it, can provide the main driving force towards European integration.

Some of the necessary steps have been provided for in the Community existing resolutions on economic and monetary union. What we need now, I suggest, is a deliberate plan and a prescribed timetable. I hope this Conference will enter into clear commitments on both these points – the Community’s regional and industrial policies. For only thus will we be able to see the European economy integrated on a continental scale. In all this we must not lose sight of what we are seeking to achieve. Only thus shall we lay the foundations for the social progress and the higher standards of living, which all our peoples seek.

Indeed, why should we not set ourselves the aim of bringing together our aspirations, commitments and policies in the regional, industrial, agricultural and social fields into a comprehensive social programme for the Community? Let us show that the Europe we build is no empty monument, no bureaucratic blue print, but a living democratic society concerned with the welfare of Europe’s citizens and with Europe’s contribution to the world. For this purpose we must recapture our European voice, the voice which we all of us instinctively recognise: a voice of reason, of humanity and moderation, which can be heard throughout the world.

For Ireland, the Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, delivered the following remarks:

My Government […] recognised the need for the members and prospective members of the Communities to come together, prior to enlargement, to take certain decisions. These decisions were most desirable, not only to give impetus and discipline to the important task of integrating the acceding countries into the Communities but also to help the Communities to embark on new tasks and assume those wider obligations which the vision of their founders and the logic of their achievements to date demand […] The Community was seen as laying the foundation for the creation of ever-closer union among the European peoples. This surely remains our real goal and all our deliberations at this Conference must be closely related to it.

The Taoiseach concluded with a comment of considerable foresight:

And there is also a wider question – the question of the democratic content of the Communities and of the need to involve the people as closely as possible with the decisions, policies and workings of the Communities. We should recognise the danger of our peoples growing apart from the Community of their regarding the Community, as it embarks upon major new areas of activity, as some form of monolithic structure increasingly divorced from the type of democratic control as it is known in our nine countries.

The Summit adopted an extensive Communique which contained detailed and specific aspirations and commitments in key policy areas: Economic and Monetary Questions; Social Policy; Regional Policy; Environment Policy; Energy Policy; Development and Foreign Policy. It stated that the nine Member States had “set themselves the major objective of transforming, before the end of the present decade and with the fullest respect for the treaties already signed, the whole complex of the relations of Member States into a European union.”

Writing in 1998, Edward Heath, gave an insight into developments following the Paris Summit which remain relevant today:

After the oil crisis of 1973-4 the Community lost its momentum and, worse, lost sight of the philosophy of Jean Monnet: that the Community exists to find common solutions to common problems. Each member state drifted back to seeking its own, unilateral solution to unemployment and inflation. So we all had to relearn painfully that there is no solution if we act on our own. It was not until the mid-1980s that the original philosophy of Community action was properly restored. Pompidou’s early death, on 2 April 1974, was another sad day for Europe. If President Pompidou, Chancellor Brandt and myself, the three men who created the enlarged European Community, had remained in power (Brandt and I both lost office in 1974), we might have been able to implement the Communiqué issued after the Paris Summit in October 1972 the first part of which President Pompidou had drafted in his own hand. I am convinced that, had that been achieved, Europe would have been a more successful, influential, prosperous – and happier – place than it is today.


As an independent forum, the Institute does not express any opinions of its own. The views expressed in the article are the sole responsibility of the author.


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