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..There's a little Samuel Pepys in all of us..

Monday, January 15, 2007

An interesting proposition has come to light from documents dating from the 1950's..
It appears there was a serious proposition by the French Prime Minister, Guy Mollet, that Britain and France merge into one country, with the Queen taking the role of Head of State. Mr. Mollet apparently went as far as taking a trip to London to talk with the then Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, concerning the formation of a single nation.. a precursor to the European Union..
Historically, it was a bad time for both nations, with the Suez Crisis in full bloom and the French and British economies suffering from the effects of the Second World War, and Egyptian President Nasser funding insurgents in French Algeria..
The following is an extract from a British government cabinet paper of the day. It reads:
"When the French Prime Minister, Monsieur Mollet was recently in London he raised with the prime minister the possibility of a union between the United Kingdom and France."
Mollet was desperate to hit back at Nasser. He was also an Anglophile who admired Britain both for its help in two world wars and its blossoming welfare state.

Some analysts, French ones to boot, still think it would be a good idea.. describing France as 'bankrupt', and saying British entrepreneurialism could turn a stagnating State around. They also point out the advantages to Britain, in the increase of tourism for the cojoined countries..
When Eden turned down his request for a union between France and Britain the French prime minister came up with another proposal.
This time, while Eden was on a visit to Paris, he requested that France be allowed to join the British Commonwealth.
A secret document from 28 September 1956 records the surprisingly enthusiastic way the British premier responded to the proposal when he discussed it with his Cabinet Secretary, Sir Norman Brook.
It says: "Sir Norman Brook asked to see me this morning and told me he had come up from the country consequent on a telephone conversation from the prime minister who is in Wiltshire.
..The PM told him on the telephone that he thought in the light of his talks with the French:
..That we should give immediate consideration to France joining the Commonwealth
..That Monsieur Mollet had not thought there need be difficulty over France accepting the headship of her Majesty
"That the French would welcome a common citizenship arrangement on the Irish basis.

It seems that the French prime minister decided to quietly forget about his strange proposals.
No record of them seems to exist in the French archives and it is clear that he told few other ministers of the day about them.
This might well be because after Britain decided to pull out of Suez, the battle against President Nasser was lost and all talk of union died too.
Instead, when the EEC was born the following year, France teamed up with Germany while Britain watched on. The rest, it seems, is history.

So has it always been.. so shall it always be..
Also interesting to note, that this proposal was not known to French Ministers of that time, nor is it part of French history..
Seeing these words for the first time, Henri Soutou, professor of contemporary history at Paris's Sorbonne University almost fell off his chair.

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