The Old Commonwealth and Britain’s First Application to Join the EEC
Australian Economic History Review, Vol. 40, No. 2, pp. 153-177, 2000
Posted: 18 Dec 2009
Date Written: 2000
New Zealand, Canada, and Australia reacted in different ways to Britain's decision in 1961 to seek membership of the EEC. We show that the umbrage taken by the members of the old Commonwealth was in inverse proportion to the economic interests at stake. Canada, whose trade with Britain was relatively small, adopted a position of violent opposition to British policy. New Zealand, which was still heavily dependent on the UK as a market for staple commodities, was careful to avoid acting in a manner likely to alienate the British government. Australia, which was in an intermediate position as regards the importance of its trade with Britain, mounted a sturdy defence of its commercial interests, but did not indulge in the histrionics of the Canadians. All three of the old dominions were disappointed with the arrangements for Commonwealth trade towards which the UK and the Six were moving when de Gaulle vetoed British membership in January 1963, but at least New Zealand had obtained some special concessions. Whilst it is unlikely that a less combative attitude by Canada and Australia would have resulted in a better outcome for these countries, a more belligerent approach on the part of New Zealand would have put its economic future in even greater jeopardy.
Keywords: Commenwealth, EEC, Staple commodities, British government, Australia, Commercial interests
JEL Classification: N10, N14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation