7 JULY 1967, Page 2

Mr Brown in the antechamber

`A dialogue of the deaf' was how the French often described the Brussels negotiations in 1961-2. Now it is being repeated. Having failed to extract an invitation to address the Council of Ministers of the European Com- munity, Mr George Brown was forced on Tuesday to make his presentation of the British case to the Foreign Ministers of the Five plus a junior minister from France gathered in Brussels under the aegis of WEU.

It was a bizarre performance. To offset the Foreign Secretary's emphasis on the urgency of European industry 'reaching its full potential' through the removal of barriers to trade there was a last-minute in- sertion about the 'fine balance of economic advantage' for Britain in membership of the Community. There was the suggestion of a one-year standstill period after negotiation of British entry, transparently designed to enable us to withdraw from EFTA without breaching the Treaty of Stockholm. The word `sterling' was never mentioned, and there was only a passing reference to the need for a Community point of view in the field of defence. The French representative's reaction to his speech, Mr Brown was quoted as saying, was 'a great deal better than might have been expected—it was certainly not a veto.'

But why should it have been? General de Gaulle has already stated his view that this is not the time for British entry into the Community, and the brief for his ingenious inspecteurs des finances will be to prolong the preliminaries indefinitely.

Mr Brown has now invited 'the Mem- ber States of the Community' to 'propose other questions for consideration during our negotiations.' The hope is presumably that the French will table their list of objections so that these can be whittled away. Unfor- tunately, the General has already shown that he is not falling for this one. On sterling, the most formidable problem of all, the French expect the British government to explain how they propose to deal with it.

The best that Britain can hope for now is deferred membership of the European Com: munity. Mr Wilson would do better to try for this instead of sending Mr Brown on fruitless and humiliating visits to that per- petual ante-room of Europe, the Western European Union.