The end of the affair : Britain's turn to Europe as a problem in Anglo-Australian relations (1961-72)
This thesis is an historical account based on primary sources in Australia and Britain. It seeks to explain why Anglo-Australian relations underwent radical change during the 1960s and why the ties of empire which had once bound Australia and Britain, became, for all practical purposes, inconsequential by the early 1970s. It is the main contention of the thesis that this radical change can be broadly attributed to what has been described as Britain's turn to Europe. In the 1960s Britain's foreign, defence and trade policies underwent a profound revision as Britain endeavoured to redefine its emerging post-imperial role. British policy-makers gradually turned away from an imperial and global focus and their orientation became increasingly more European. This process of reorientation can be seen principally in the series of policies implemented by successive British governments during the 1960s and early 1970s: the three applications for EEC membership between 1961 and 1972 and the decision taken in 1967-68 to withdraw from east of Suez. Both the EEC applications and the withdrawal from east of Suez brought about an irreconcilable conflict of interest between the two countries. The relationship suffered under the strains imposed by Britain's reassessment of its imperial policy-making. This thesis explains how Australia perceived these challenges, the manner of its response to them and the policies successive Australian governments implemented to minimise their impact. The thesis argues that, anxious not to antagonise Britain for fear it would drift further away, Australian policy-makers avoided too confrontational a stance. They gradually accepted the developing new realities and sought to diversify their country's trading options away from its traditional markets in Britain towards the Asia-Pacific region, while also cautiously redefining its strategic priorities in Asia.