In the summer of 1960, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan got the invitation from Chancellor Adenauer to go to Germany and discuss the possibility of Britain's joining the European Community. At the same time, Italian Prime Minister Amintore Fanfani sent an invitation from Rome to do the same thing. Macmillan and [Foreign Secretary] Sir Alec Douglas-Home went to Germany. I was Lord Privy Seal working with Home on Europe, and so I was sent to Rome. Following that, we really had a reconnaissance of all the members. The reaction was very strong, but it was quite obvious that the French were suspicious of why the British wanted to come in. They wondered whether Britain wanted to build up the Community or find a way of destroying it.
In early 1961 I met De Gaulle when he came privately to Macmillan's house. It was all very pleasant. Harold had quite a small dinner party. De Gaulle talked to me about it all. I told him that we wanted the Community to be a success. But De Gaulle had a belief, which he had from his time over here during the war, that we were closer to the Americans than we were to Europe. He was suspicious of British intentions. In January 1963 we had three weeks to complete the negotiations. At the end of the first week, I had lunch in Paris with Couve de Murville. He said everything was straight ahead. Later I saw [U.S. Under Secretary of State] George Ball, who had come over from Washington to meet with the French and use any influence he had, if necessary. I told him about our optimistic meeting, and he said he had heard exactly the same thing.
The following Monday I was in Brussels for more negotiations. Just before lunch, one of the civil servants came in and said De Gaulle had held this press conference at which he announced that he was vetoing our application. We were all astonished. The Germans said Adenauer was going to meet De Gaulle before the end of the week. We said, "Get Adenauer to press De Gaulle to reverse his decision." But I very much doubt that Adenauer did, even though he told his people he did. He didn't want to spoil a perfectly good meeting with De Gaulle in which they were celebrating the relationship between their two countries.
People in Britain were very upset at the idea of being vetoed by General De Gaulle. If we had become members then, we would have been able to take part in all the developments that followed.
Edward Heath has been a member of Parliament since 1950, and was Prime Minister of Britain from 1970 to 1974
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