Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Historical note

From the papers of Patrick Hillery, Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs in the early 1970s and thus the chief negotiator of Ireland's accession to the EEC, which was being done in tandem with applications from the UK, Denmark, and Norway --

‘Things about the Norwegians and the fish I would like on record.’ Remarks ‘Heath sent a telegram, saying among other things “we want you in” to the Norwegian Prime Minister, suggesting that they would have to concede and behave like the rest of the applicants. There was great anger at this by the Norwegian Delegation.’ Remarks that the Norwegians threatened to stay out of the EEC and keep the Danes out if they did not get the concessions they required with regard to fishing and their insistence that they wanted to be treated as a special case, negotiating a separate arrangement exclusive to Norway. Concludes ‘The final impression was following-up all my original impressions that there is a Political deal done between Pompidou and Heath on Fish and that’s why we made so much good progress.

Looking back at the time, an enormous amount of negotiating effort was expended on fishing rights, which looks especially anachronistic in Norway's case because this is just when North Sea oil was become a major factor in its economy. Anyway, the point is that in 1972, it was movements of fish, and not people, that was seen as the dealbreaker. The final irony being that after the machinations over fish to keep the Norwegians on board, their EEC membership was defeated in a referendum. We're not very good at spotting the long-term issues when it comes to arrangements that could change what those long-term issues will be.

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