16 Bury to Wheeler

Letter [LONDON], 7 May 1948


[matter omitted]

I have cabled a few words on Cripps's speech in the House last night. I feel myself that the time is coming shortly when some responsible Minister or Ministers should visit London. The fact is that decisions are being made concerning the U.K.'s future relationship with Europe and, indirectly, the British Commonwealth stage by stage. Nothing very sensational is likely to happen at any one time in this connection but the present does seem to be a parting of the ways in which we have got to think out very clearly where Australia's interests lie. Any clear-cut Australian views are obviously capable of influencing such a fluid situation. It is only by top-level Ministerial discussion, even if only in general terms, that we will be able to obtain any definition of precisely where the U.K. is heading, because I don't think the country knows itself However, it is early days for me to give any formed opinions. I am just unfolding my thoughts as they occur. My impression was rather reinforced by chatting yesterday afternoon to the Canadian and South African representatives [1], both of whom I met during I.T.O. discussions. Since they have been on the scrounge longer than Jim and I, I hope to get some useful lines from them later. Both affirmed the interesting character and far- reaching nature of things now happening in the U.K. I am convinced that the growing inclination of U.K. towards Western Europe is not by any means just political and strategic. There seems to be a growing conviction that the individual economies of Western Europe, including that of U.K., are on too small a scale to exploit the full advantages of modern technology. Among the U.K.

officials I have come across so far this rather than any strategic factor governs their thinking. One satisfactory feature, at least from our point of view, is that Western Europe will remain a deficit area for food and raw materials which we should be able to supply at profitable terms of trade. At present it seems likely that any integration will take place only slowly and that we shall have plenty of opportunity to ascertain our interests as each case arises, but one can never be sure.

[matter omitted]

I have just noticed a report in the Times from Canberra about Australia's misgivings concerning British ties under Western Union. [2] It is indeed something which should cause us to think through our fundamental position in the world. Its implications are far wider and deeper than Imperial Preference alone. Even if we are met on Imperial Preference, which seems to me quite likely, some of the other changes may not be at all welcome. I don't pretend to know the answers myself, but will give them some thought in the coming weeks.

1 Members of the SASC.

2 Under the Treaty of Brussels (1948) Great Britain, Belgium, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands formed an alliance for military, economic and social cooperation and assistance.

[AA: A2910, 453/7/1, VI]