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France and UK discussed 'merger'

Secret documents reveal 1950s talks

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Be prepared to choke your beef and oyster pie of Olde England: previously-secret documents at the National Archive reveal how in 1956 the French Prime Minister travelled to London to propose a possible merger between the two countries.

On 10 September, Anglophile Guy Mollet made the suggestion to his Brit counterpart Sir Anthony Eden, the Telegraph reports. At the time "France was in economic difficulties and faced the escalating Suez crisis", the paper notes.

A Cabinet paper reveals: "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."

The British quickly kicked this idea into touch. Mollet then came back to the table with a back-up plan: that France should join the Commonwealth. Eden apparently liked this scheme, and a document dated 28 September 1956 records a conversation between him and his cabinet secretary, Sir Norman Brook:

"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."

Sacre Bleu. Quite whether the French would have received the proposal with enthusiasm is open to debate. In any case, once Britain pulled out of Suez, "all talk of union faded away". A year later France "signed the Treaty of Rome with Germany and the other founding nations of the Common Market" and the happy bands of brothers we now call the EU was born. ®

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