Letter: Britain and Europe: the sceptics reply

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Sir: I read with intense interest the letter from the six illustrious Conservative leaders. I cannot help offering a footnote.

In 1950 I visited Dr Adenauer, then Chancellor of Western Germany. I was Minister of Civil Aviation at the time but I got to know him quite well when I was Minister for the British Zone in 1947-48. He urged me to beg the British Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, the British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, and their colleagues to join the Franco-German coal and steel pact, then in the process of formation.

I think that he overestimated my influence, which was not great. My submission to the government leaders when I got home was brushed aside. A high Treasury official wrote a crushing memorandum opining that to join Europe at that stage would be to tie ourselves to a corpse. The Labour government missed the bus then, but so did the Conservatives for a good many years after they came into power in 1951.


The Earl of Longford

House of Lords