LETTER : Obstacles to European free trade agreement with the US

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The Independent Online
From Mr Ernest Wistrich

Sir: The Foreign Secretary's championship of a North Atlantic free trade area at the Conservative Party conference, against the background of opposition to any further integration within the European Union, is doomed to failure.

The Conservative government tried this before in 1958 by urging the EEC to negotiate a free trade area with the newly formed Efta as an alternative to further European integration. This was rejected by the EEC then as a device to destroy the EEC's commitment to "an ever closer union of the European people", a phrase used in the Rome treaty to explain the objective of the EEC to proceed ultimately to full political and economic union. When Britain failed in that attempt, we decided to join the EEC and were ultimately admitted on the clear understanding that we accepted its political objectives.

The same commitment to ever closer union appears in the preamble of the Maastricht treaty to which Britain is a signatory. If we now refuse to go along with our partners towards political as well as economic union, we are certainly unlikely to persuade them to abandon it for the sake of a wider free trade area.

Our government should make a clear and honest choice. Either we carry out our commitment to further integration, implicit in the Maastricht treaty, or we decide to let the others go ahead without us by leaving the union and seeking a free trade association with it instead.

Yours faithfully,

Ernest Wistrich

London, NW3

11 October