The ECC set itself four main targets to be achieved by 1970. The first target was to remove tariffs and trade restrictions, forming a common market. The second target was to create a Common External Tariff. The third target was to produce legislation to outlaw practices preventing free competition between members. The fourth target was to have free movement of goods, persons, capital and services. All four targets were achieved by 1968, which was impressively two years ahead of schedule. However it was in 1965 the EEC, the ECSC and Euratom were brought together when the members signed the Merger Treaty, which established a single Commission and a single Council for the three communities. In the early 1960s the French president, Charles de Gaulle, sought to establish a French hegemony over the institutions of the Communities by fully exploiting the Council of Ministers.
Britain signed an agreement setting up the European Free Trade Area in Stockholm during November 1959, and it came into force in April 1960. This was the competitor to the EEC. Britain claimed to admire the "economic and commercial freedom" of EFTA as against the "political straitjacket" of the EEC. Within a year the PM was to change his mind and apply for British membership of the EEC. Reasons for this were ones such as the Suez affair in 1956. It changed the attitude of the British government and led them to realise that her days as a world power were over. The press felt Britain needed a new role and for many people that new role would seem to be in Europe. Even though the late 1950s and early 1960s were Boom years for the British economy, growth was even healthier elsewhere and economic commentators asked what was wrong, in comparison, EEC members had almost doubled their standard of living inside ten years. British politicians watched the EEC create as series of political and economic institutions while building a fence against outsiders. It was felt that, if one day it became necessary to join the European Communities, Britain would have to face a Europe formed without any British input. Britain assumed that the "special relationship" between the UK and USA would ensure that, in trading with Europe, the Americans would favour EFTA with its British connections. However, President Kennedy privately informed Macmillan that Europe's divisions annoyed him. If the US were forced to choose between EEC and EFTA, the USA would choose the more important EEC. In July 1961 Macmillan announced Britain's application for EEC membership as well as the Republic of Ireland, Norway and Denmark.
In December 1962 de Gaulle told Macmillan that he intended to veto Britain's application unless Britain broke with the American alliance. Macmillan did the opposite by having a meeting with President Kennedy, which resulted in the Nassau Agreement where Britain's stake in NATO's nuclear programme was increased. Instead of adopting the position of humble supplicant in applying to join the Communities, Britain gave the impression of doing Europe a favour by the application. It is a classic act of British arrogance, striking through the community even today. However in 1969 de Gaulle resigned due to members of the EC not liking the way he did things without consultation. Within the year, the new French president, George Pompidou, had met the new British PM, Ted Heath, and dropped the hint that France would no longer oppose British membership. Britain finally signed the Treaty of Accession in Brussels in 1972. The EEC finally conceded to Britain joining it, but at what cost, what had Britain missed out on. By “missing the European Community boat” it had firmly established itself as a lesser influence; forever? Well to date!