79 Heydon to Burton

Cablegram Austdel 237 PARIS, 17 November 1948


On 16th November discussions were completed on the position which will result when the External Relations Act is repealed by Parliament in Dublin.

At first the United Kingdom view was that this would immediately result in Eire being legally a foreign country to the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other members of the British Commonwealth and in acute difficulties in all treaties of trade, commerce or navigation under which foreign countries are entitled to the benefit of the M.F.N. clause. The consequence of this would possibly be claims by Denmark or the Argentine that they were entitled to precisely the same treatment as Eire.

The view taken by Dr, Evatt for Australia, Mr. Fraser for New Zealand and Mr. Pearson for Canada was that Eire although not being strictly a member of the British Commonwealth should not be treated as a foreign country by the members of the British Commonwealth providing a proper declaration was made on behalf of the Eire Government.

Dr. Evatt drafted a formula by which the Eire Government would publicly state its view that after the repeal of the External Relations Act it would not regard members of the Commonwealth as foreign countries. The declaration would indicate further the important fact that in Eire nationals or citizens of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada were being treated as though they were Irish citizens just as Irish citizens in Commonwealth countries were accorded the rights and privileges of appropriate nationality or citizenship. Moreover, Eire representatives expressed willingness to amend the nationality act in order that the strict law might be brought into conformity with the practice.

The proposed declaration by the Eire Government would also state that these rights of nationality or citizenship would be sufficient not only to negative the theory that the various countries were foreign to each other but would positively evidence the existence of a closer association which it is the strong desire of Eire not only to maintain but to strengthen.

In the end, after discussion, this basic declaration drafted by the Minister was accepted by the United Kingdom Ministers and all Dominions and the meeting ended in a spirit of cordiality and friendship.

This is in great contrast to the position on Friday last when the United Kingdom intended to issue a public ultimatum to Eire which would not only have failed to prevent repeal but would have embittered relations for a long period.

The Minister also expressed the view that there was no reason why nationality and citizenship rights should not ultimately be made a qualification for Eire's fun reentry into the British Commonwealth and this view found strong support although the Eire Representatives naturally spoke guardedly about it.

The Minister feels, of course, that it is very unsatisfactory that Eire is making any change in the law at all but that decisions having been taken it is best to mitigate the consequences and for Britain to have declared Eire a foreign country would have caused endless repercussions.

[AA: A1838/2, 1521/1]