FRANCE’S REJECTION OF UK EEC MEMBERSHIP. PRESS STATEMENT BY FRENCH PRESIDENT CHARLES DE GAULLE, 14 JANUARY 1963 This is an extract of General de Gaulle’s speech which cast a veto against the UK’s first application for EEC membership. . . . England is, in effect, insular, maritime, linked through its trade, markets, and food supply to very diverse and often very distant countries. Its activities are essentially industrial and commercial, and only slightly agricultural. It has, throughout its work, very marked and original customs and traditions. In short, the nature, structure, and economic context of England differ profoundly from those of the other States of the Continent . . . It is foreseeable that the cohesion of all its members, who would be very numerous and very diverse, would not hold for long and that in the end there would appear a colossal Atlantic Community dependent on the US and under American leadership which would soon completely swallow up the European Community.
Charles de Gaulle (1970) Discours et Messages, Pour l’effort Août 1962 – Décembre 1965 (Paris: Librairie Plon) pp.66–70 (translated)
As Charles de Gaulle points out, in his comments on vetoing the UKs requested membership to the EEC in 1963, Britain had a lot of differences to the original six established nations of the organisation. He notes the difference of production, being mainly “industrial and commercial, and only slightly agricultural” (Gaulle, 1970). He points out the seemingly huge gulf in culture, speaking of “very marked and original customs and traditions” (Gaulle, 1970). He talks of Britain being linked with its empire, and the “very diverse and often very distant countries” (Gaulle, 1970) that would thereof have been, potentially unsustainably, linked into the Community. And he talks about the UK’s significant relation with the US. I believe all of these are valid points, and all contributed to de Gaulle’s veto of British membership to the EEC, however, I also believe that he has only touched the tip of the proverbial iceberg when addressing the most significant reason for his veto.
“In the opening pages of his War Memoirs, Charles de Gaulle equated France with greatness: “France cannot be France without grandeur.” De Gaulle perceived France as possessing a natural genius, a unique élan that necessitated a world role. In 1963 he proclaimed: “France, because she can do so, because everything invites her to do so, because she is France, should conduct amidst the world a world power.”” (Naylor, P.C. 2000)
De Gaulle, himself, was a man who had very strong idealistic opinions. Mostly founded from, as we can see above, the absolute belief that France was a kind of spiritual being, almost a Goddess, which was preordained for greatness. He seemed a man who truly assumed he was destined to take France to its rightful place in world politics.
Arguably because of his approach to the French nation, de Gaulle took a very obstinate approach to international negotiation. This can be seen in the ‘empty chair crisis’ of 1965, where de Gaulle refused to agree to the introduction of qualified majority voting by storming out, and refusing to participate with any European institution until the matter was resolved –essentially, de Gaulle vetoed the retraction of a veto. As Władysław Kulski points out, “If [de Gaulle’s] intransigence is met with equal obstinacy by the other party and there is no way out, he retreats.” (1966). Kulski goes on to use another example of Algeria; when first confronted with the threat of Algerian independence and violent calls for reformation, de Gaulle refused even basic negotiation, yet, just over two years later, Algeria suddenly found themselves with an independence agreement.
This characteristic from de...