318 Chifley to Attlee

Message, [CANBERRA], 10 February 1948

TOP SECRET AND PERSONAL

1. Thank you for your message of 2nd February[1] conveyed to me by your High Commissioner. I have read carefully the comments you made on my message of 22nd January.[2]

2. It is important that we should express ourselves frankly on these matters of peace and war, particularly at this time when a drift to war is perceptible. Even though we cannot agree, we at least, by these means, know each other's point of view, and developments in our foreign policies will then come with less surprise.

3. I can understand your desire to discuss your proposed course with Cabinet before communicating with us: but I cannot emphasise too much or too often the seriousness of taking decisions clearly involving us, or in expectation of our support, without the fullest prior consultation. One instance where we are completely uninformed is the matter of a Customs Union.[3] We are being asked, and will no doubt be questioned in Parliament, as to our knowledge of this matter. We can only say that we have no knowledge as to how the Union is to work. I have now asked your High Commission for any information he has.

4. We fully appreciate your great difficulties and the absolute need in your present economic and military position to obtain and maintain the sympathy and support of the United States of America, but that support should not be obtained on the basis that war with the Soviet is inevitable. That view appears, on private advice we have received, as being fostered by certain sections in the United States of America. I know that it is easy for those not so deeply involved as yourselves to criticise from the sidelines, but, if we are to be expected to be enthusiastic supporters of any plan, we must be given an opportunity reasonably early to express an opinion and take part in the formulation of that plan. Whether such opinion is worthy of earnest consideration must be for yourselves to decide in the light of the great difficulties with which you have to contend. Though our political and economic problems are small compared with yours, they are still problems which we have to face locally.

5. Though we wish to be frank in our opinions to you, I hope you will accept our assurance of our great feeling of friendship and sympathy in your difficulties.

[1] Document 317.

[2] Document 313.

[3] On the European Customs Union, see Document 409.

[AA : A1838, TS78/7]