The United Kingdom and the Six: An Essay on Economic Growth in Western Europe

The United Kingdom and the Six: An Essay on Economic Growth in Western Europe

The United Kingdom and the Six: An Essay on Economic Growth in Western Europe

The United Kingdom and the Six: An Essay on Economic Growth in Western Europe

Excerpt

There can be little doubt that one of the most striking facts of Western Europe's economic history since 1950 has been the widening gap between the economic performance of the United Kingdom and that of the group of countries which since 1958 have been members of the European Economic Community. In every single year since the early nineteen- fifties the Common Market countries as a group have been growing more rapidly than the British economy. Moreover, for the period as a whole, British prices have been rising faster than prices in the E.E.C. countries, the only exception being France; and the balance of payments of the United Kingdom has been more frequently under heavy pressure than that of any Common Market country. Even France is no exception to this rule. As measured by the now common standards of growth, price stability and external balance, the Six have done far better than Britain.

This book discusses the main facts about this growing disparity within Western Europe, and puts forward a line of argument which may well account for most of the observed facts. There is a body of public opinion both in Europe and the United States which tends to look at the Common Market area as some mythical land of promise, predestined to enjoy for years to come the same sort of economic bliss as during the nineteen-fifties. Others claim that the Six have done so far no more than fill the gap which separated them in the immediate post-war years (indeed even before the war) from a more advanced, more industrialized England. My main contention is to show that both of these views are wrong; that it seems likely that some systematic forces have been at work which made Continental Europe grow faster than would have been warranted by a mere process of catching up with Britain; but that these forces, systematic though they may have been, need not be permanent, and are certainly not independent of what may happen outside Europe.

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