234 Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Commonwealth Government

Cablegram 502 (extract) [1] Received [21 December 1940] [2],

Separate notice of termination under Article 20, even if it were possible under terms of that article which makes no provision for it, would involve assumption that Treaty (and by implication other 45 in similar position) is still operative, notwithstanding the war, which is not our view. To terminate it as a whole by similar notice would make it necessary first of all to consult with other Dominions, India and Colonies, which would obviously take some time, and such notice would carry the same implications. Even if, in order to remove all possible doubt, Italian Government were simply informed that the Commonwealth Government regarded the Treaty as absolutely nullified as a consequence of the declaration of war, this might well be regarded as implying that the war had not resulted in nullification of other Treaties of similar character on which no communications have been made, and such a declaration in respect of the Commonwealth Government alone might be treated by the Italian Government as indicating that the United Kingdom and the other Dominion Governments etc. concerned did not share the view of the Commonwealth Government as to this particular Treaty. For political reasons this would be specially undesirable. United Kingdom view is that in justification of the practice, Treaties of this character are ipso facto nullified by outbreak of war with the country concerned, but as was shown after last war the position of pre-war treaties must by necessity come up for review at peace settlement, when we should propose to take the line that this Treaty has been nullified by the war and that we were not prepared to revive it.

We should be glad to learn whether the Commonwealth Government have considered the matter from this point of view and whether in the circumstances they would be prepared to dispense with the separate action suggested.

1 The first paragraph of the original is too badly damaged to reproduce. It referred to the Commonwealth Govt's cablegram 615 of 20 November (AA:A3196, 1940, 0.9303), which requested a reply to the cablegram printed as Document 78.

2 Inserted from Prime Minister's Dept inward cablegram register (AA:A3642, 1).

3 Inserted from Prime Minister's Dept inward cablegram register (AA:A3642, 1).

[AA:A3195, 1940, [1.12198] [3]]