on the World Today

THE basic terms on which Great Britain can join the European Common Market have been established this spring. During June it should become clear at last whether Britain will or will not join a decision of profound consequence, of course, for the future of the Western alliance. But the decision will not be confirmed until sometime during the autumn.

The delay in coming to a decision has been as frustrating to the Macmillan government as it has been to the Kennedy Administration. Each extra week spent in discussing terms, with the french negotiators seeming always to argue in circles, has only added to the suspicions of those in Britain who are opposed to British membership anyway that the terms, when known, will prove less than liberal. Delay has also deepened a fundamental difference of approach between the British and American governments.

The Kennedy plan for trade is based on the assumption that. Britain will first have entered the Common Market. Britain’s entry, however, depends, the British insist, on something like the Kennedy plan being accepted by the Common Market (and the United States) in advance. Without that, British membership could even yet prove impossible. The Kennedy Administration has shown no signs of understanding this.

It is the liberality of the terms proposed for Britain’s entry, therefore, that will decide the issue. The government has to consult Commonwealth prime ministers — probably fourteen of them — and then report to the House of Commons before signing. After ten years in power, operating now within the confines of a mood of public disenchantment, the Conservatives are aware that it would be as much as their political life is worth to appear to take Britain in at the expense of the Commonwealth — or, indeed, at the expense of their partners in the European Free Trade Association, including the neutrals Austria, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Commonwealth versus Common Market

British entry, even on the best terms, probably requires the acceptance of some sacrifices by most of the Commonwealth. Britain will give up the imperial preference system but will be compensated itself by entry into the European Market. Its Commonwealth partners will gain no automatic compensation. In essence, their problem is simple. The Commonwealth consists of fifty-eight territories and islands. Thirteen are countries already independent. Nine more will probably be independent within a year. (Most of the rest are too small to be viable.) The new countries, in particular, vitally need the assurance of stability and economic growth.

Up to now, they have enjoyed a free and protected market in Britain. But British entry into the Common Market means the removal of this free market and the substitution of active discrimination against the Commonwealth countries — free entry into Britain for Dutch butter and Italian textiles, for instance, and tariffs or quotas on New Zealand butter and Indian textiles. Transitional arrangements can easily be made to ease the break. But the big question remains: for New Zealand and India, what is it to be a transition to?

Macmillan has to weigh the answer very carefully. If the electorate became convinced it was the wrong answer, because it was not liberal enough, this could give Hugh Gaitskell and the Labor Party their one big chance. For although a revival of the Liberal Party has been the most striking political phenomenon of 1962‚ it is Gaitskell the Socialist, not Grimond the Liberal, who has been the one consistent advocate of getting a proCommonwealth pact with Europe or having no pact at all.

On all other issues, the voters who have been deserting the Tory Party in such numbers have almost to a man sided with the Liberals. On this they could not, for the Liberals are committed to British entry on almost any terms. Since the Liberals are not strong enough to form an alternative government, the Tories can reassure themselves with the belief that, when it comes to voting for a government instead of for a single representative, as at a by-election, the lost 20 percent of Tory votes will be returned once more to the fold — provided a Common Market agreement has not outraged the dissenters further.

The Common Market apart, the swing to liberalism is the most significant political happening in a decade. Its effect on the government was visible in the budget, which promised to remove the extra tax levied on houses occupied by their owners, reduced the sales tax on cars, levied a tax on short-term investments and speculative profit from stock deals and real estate, and made property held abroad liable to death duties. Lloyd explained: “The purpose is to produce a feeling of broad equity of treatment among taxpayers.” A notable omission was the tax on all capital gains.

The underprivileged middle class

The majority of the votes the government has been losing to the Liberals have come from the professional classes and the higher-paid wage earners. These people are living on their incomes. For them, in a high-tax economy like Britain’s, an “incomes policy,” placing severe restraint on their salary increases, multiplies the inequality that already exists between them and the business community. Not only does the ability to make untaxed capital gains give many businessmen an obvious advantage; not only do fringe benefits like company houses, cars, meals, entertainment expenses, and so on reduce the organization man’s reliance on taxed income; but through generous company pension funds business executives under British tax rules can have almost all their saving done for them tax-free, while most professional people with small pension prospects have to save what they themselves can out of taxed income.

This inequality has consequences more serious than simply to produce a large floating vote, a mass of perhaps five million middle-class people who feel they have neither the privileges of the welfare state nor those of the organization man. It is also eroding the nation’s professional and scientific wealth. Nearly four thousand doctors have left England in the past five years, and probably as many young research scientists. Both parties must now take account of this strong middle-class revolt. The government is beginning to do so.

The Conservative leadership

Selwyn Lloyd’s National Economic Development Council is a Liberal rather than a Tory or Socialist concept. And it is on Liberal lines that Macmillan is expected to recast his government in late summer or autumn.

While R. A. Butler will almost certainly remain in effect deputy prime minister and heir apparent, “liberal” Tories like MacLeod, Lord Hailsham, and Edward Heath are being canvassed now for promotion. Coming up among the juniors is Sir Edward Boyle, an economist who resigned over Suez. But perhaps the most intriguing question is this: what is the future of Lord Home?

With reform of the House of Lords under discussion, the possibility that peers may soon sit in the Commons cannot be discounted. The making of “life commoners” — peers who might be enabled to renounce their titles for their own lifetimes and so qualify both for a vote (which they are also denied at present) and a seat in the Commons — has been proposed. This, however, would be constitutionally difficult, and it might denude the House of Lords of talent.

An alternative which seems more likely is for the House of Lords, where nearly 900 peers can sit but only about 150 do, to elect each year several representatives to join the Commons. There is a constitutional precedent for this in the election of representative Irish and Scottish peers.

One way or another, Lord Home, disqualified now by constitutional tradition, could after all qualify as a future Prime Minister. Hiding his toughness, generally, in a mild manner, Lord Home seems to many people the most impressive recruit to the government since Macmillan took over.

There remains the self-effacing Mr. Butler. Besides being Home Secretary, he was given the job of presiding over the cabinet committee dealing with the Common Market and was also made coordinator of African policy. Duncan Sandys and Reginald Maudling, Commonwealth and colonial secretaries respectively, have been brought together under him. Macmillan has given Butler two equally difficult, if not impossible, jobs. If he could bring both to a successful Conclusion, his authority within the party would naturally become greater than ever before in his career. Africa presents the bigger challenge.

Freeing British Africa

The freeing of British Africa is almost complete. Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Tanganyika are independent. Uganda is on the way. Kenya’s independence waits only on the completion of a constitution that will protect minorities from oneparty or big-tribe rule. The last act, however, is going to be the most difficult — the organization of independence for what remains, but may not remain much longer, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

In a strictly economic context, if maintaining the unity of the Congo makes sense because its viability is based on Katanga’s mineral wealth, then maintaining the Federation, based as it is on Northern Rhodesia’s mineral wealth, would also seem to make sense. Unfortunately, the context has changed. The pressure for African racial independence is stronger than that for sound economics.

Nyasaland. where there are few settlers, now has a constitution providing for a native African majority and an African chief minister, Dr. Hastings Banda.

Northern Rhodesia, where there are more settlers and vast European financial interests, is being provided, however reluctantly, with a constitution which in its present form could soon produce an African majority there; and if it does not, it may have to be altered to make such a result certain.

Southern Rhodesia, where there are the most settlers, has a new constitution, providing, for the first time, for African representation but not for an African majority. And the federal government is essentially, although not exclusively, white.

Sir Roy Welensky, federal Premier, is, as he has always been, an advocate of racial partnership. (If he were in South Africa, he would for this reason be liable to imprisonment.) But he cannot yet see that so unequal a sharing of racial partnership between territories in the same Federation, by producing unequal pressures, must sooner or later inevitably break it up.

The British government, while it cannot back Sir Roy’s adamant intention of maintaining the Federation at all costs, even if he must use force, would nevertheless be appalled if it broke up altogether. The only possibility seems to be to reconstitute it as a looser association of states. But for this, if there is not to be a break with the British settlers, Sir Roy’s agreement will probably be necessary, as well as Dr. Banda’s consent.

It is a situation of obvious difficulty and danger which is further complicated by the semi-independent position of Sir Edgar Whitehead, Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia. Constitutionally, a solution cannot be imposed on him from London either. And Southern Rhodesia is a close neighbor of South Africa.

In the background is a newly appreciated fact: in all the African territories that are becoming independent, there is a need for white administrative and technical personnel that cannot possibly be filled by Great Britain alone. Outside the Rhodesian Federation, more than half the British officials, experts, and farmers in Africa are leaving, either because they have been told to or because they feel there is no future for them.

A British peace corps (the Commonwealth Service) is in existence and will be enlarged. Some fifty thousand Commonwealth students are studying in Britain. British universities are lending teachers to Africa in large numbers. But in every case the numbers simply are not and cannot be large enough. The aid of the Common Market will need to be sought in providing administrators and technicians and training, as well as in providing trade for Africa. The United Nations may also be called in. It is being realized at last in London that Africa has become a world problem. And so, of course, has the Common Market.