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Historical documents

81 Evatt to Chifley

Cablegram Austdel 262 PARIS, 23 November 1948, 4 a.m.


As the messages will have informed you, the position with regard
to Eire has changed very rapidly as a result of the recent talks
in Paris by Peter Fraser, Pearson of Canada and Beasley and myself
with United Kingdom and also Irish Ministers.

2. Prior to these talks it was the firm intention of the United
Kingdom Government to announce that after the repeal of the
External Relations Act Eire would automatically become a foreign
country. Accordingly any benefits given to Eire over and above
those given to a foreign country would probably have to cease
otherwise the most favoured foreign nation clauses in many
treaties would be breached. The United Kingdom Government took the
matter so far as to draft a direct ultimatum to this effect which
they wished the three Dominion Ministers to agree to for the
purposes of being handed to Irish Ministers.

3. In the opinion of the Australian, Canadian and New Zealand
Ministers the view of the United Kingdom Government was
constitutionally unsound and politically suicidal. For one thing
it is extremely unlikely that any foreign country would even think
of the point. For another the fact that there is an exchange of
rights of citizenship between Eire on the one hand and United
Kingdom and Commonwealth countries on the other and also that in
United Kingdom the Statute law now expressly declares that
citizens of Eire are not aliens strongly negative any argument
that the relationship between Commonwealth countries and Eire
would be that of a British country to a foreign country.

4. I need not repeat the arguments. The Irish Delegates duly
arrived and I drafted during the course of the meeting a statement
intended for public use by the Eire Government when it introduced
its repealing bill. The statement was drafted both from the
political and legal angle and it is reproduced without any
alteration whatever in the United Kingdom communication you have
received as the proposed Eire statement.

5. The essence of the Eire statement is that after the repeal of
the external relations act the Government will not regard
countries like United Kingdom or Australia or New Zealand or
Canada as foreign countries. The citizenship rights I have
mentioned completely negative this idea and it is the firm
intention of the Eire Government to maintain a very special
association with Commonwealth countries and to strengthen that
relationship. Other portions of the general undertakings which we
were able to induce the Eire Ministers to give are set out in the
United Kingdom telegram which you will have received. [1] The
result will be to put in firm statutory form some of the
privileges which are now given as a matter of executive discretion
to United Kingdom and Commonwealth citizens while in Ireland.

6. After considerable thought the United Kingdom Government as now
indicated in their telegram and the draft statement to be issued
by them have completely reversed their position. They will now say
that after repeal of the act United Kingdom and Eire will not be
foreign countries. Political wisdom and second thoughts on the
legal position seem to have prevailed.

7. The practical position which I suggest you might now adopt is
as follows:-

(a) Answer the United Kingdom Government that having heard fully
from myself you accept generally the position they will publicly
indicate in their draft statement. (You will note the draft
statement has already been amended in several respects, is subject
also to further amendments which are being suggested by myself and
will of course be communicated to you.)
(b) Make a statement in the House to synchronize with the United
Kingdom statement on Thursday. I suggest the form of it should be
along the lines indicated in a separate telegram. [2] It will be
desirable, I think, for you to read both the Irish statement and
also the United Kingdom statement before making your own comment.

8. You will have seen from the exchange of documents that the
Irish insist they will not be members of the British Commonwealth
in the future. We cannot resist their insistence on this,
regrettable though it is. You will observe from the draft
statement in my following telegram that I make a special reference
to Commonwealth status which it seems to me would be useful for
you to make because it will clear up our own position in relation
both to the King and to the use of the word British in relation to
the Government.

1 Not found.

2 Cablegram AUSTDEL 263 of 23 November 1948. Not published here.

Chifley made a statement in the House of Representatives on 26

[AA: A3195, 1948, 1.18643]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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