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By Michael Tracy

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Under this scheme the Commonwealth countries were supposed to grant preferential tariffs on their imports from each other. Its existence was another reason why Britain was so reluctant to join the EEC: applying the common external tariff would mean the end of Commonwealth preference. But was it really so important? I proposed a study, but my superiors in PEP were not interested. So I did this on my own, mainly out of office hours and at home. It was a big task, which involved going through the UK tariff and trade statistics, and applying the degree of preference to the value of trade in each item.

Many years later, while I was in my post in Brussels, a young journalist asked me how long I had been working on the CAP. When I replied “Well, since before it existed”, he could hardly have looked more surprised if I said I had been present at the creation of the world…). The key issues were the levels at which prices of farm products would be supported within the EEC, and the mechanisms for doing so. The Commission did not seek a highly protective system, but had to take account of political realities.

When I replied “Well, since before it existed”, he could hardly have looked more surprised if I said I had been present at the creation of the world…). The key issues were the levels at which prices of farm products would be supported within the EEC, and the mechanisms for doing so. The Commission did not seek a highly protective system, but had to take account of political realities. Germany had, on the whole, the highest prices. France – often blamed for the subsequent excesses of the CAP – could have accepted lower levels, knowing its big grain producers would have a competitive advantage; the Netherlands had the lowest price levels.

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