No. 444 NAI DFA Unregistered Papers

Memorandum on the form of commercial treaties by the Irish Free State delegation to the 1930 Imperial Conference

London, 8 October 1930

1. In the Memorandum on the Form of Commercial Treaties (Paper No. E (30) 8) circulated by the United Kingdom delegation, the several Governments of the Commonwealth are asked to consider whether they would prefer -

(a) that the existing practice as regards the accession clause and the 'nevertheless' clause should be maintained, or
(b) that the Dominions should be omitted from both clauses.

2. His Majesty's Government in the Irish Free State prefer that the existing practice as regards the accession clause and the 'nevertheless' clause should not be maintained.

3. Treaties must be confined in their entire application to the area and citizens under the jurisdiction of the Government on the advice of which a full power is issued and the treaties are concluded. The present practice implies that His Majesty, when advised by the Government of the United Kingdom, alone has authority to contract for the nationals of the other countries of the Commonwealth. The fact that such a contract does not involve active obligations on the part of any of His Majesty's Governments other than that of the United Kingdom does not affect the implication. Since the geographical limitation of full powers recommended in the Report of 1926 was intended to prevent any misconception arising as to the scope of a treaty concluded on the advice of any one of His Majesty's Governments, no part of the treaty, whether the preamble or the articles thereof, should purport to extend its scope beyond the limits of the full power.

The practice whereby His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom purport to act for the nationals of all the members of the Commonwealth is opposed to the principle which should govern the internal and external relations of the members of the Commonwealth, namely, that the British Commonwealth of Nations is not a single sovereign State.

4. The principles above stated appear to His Majesty's Government in the Irish Free State to be fundamental to the conception of the British Commonwealth and to the individual sovereign statehood of the several members.

5. His Majesty's Government in the Irish Free State do not believe that considerations based on mere expediency should be allowed to obscure the indefeasible and exclusive right of each of the Commonwealth Governments to order the internal and external relations of the people whom it represents. In the absence of a Commonwealth federal system in which a central Government would possess real representative powers, no one of His Majesty's Governments can act for the nationals under the jurisdiction of another of His Majesty's Governments without violating the root principles of democratic rule. The nations of the Commonwealth, having definitely and finally rejected federation, His Majesty's Government in the Irish Free State would view with grave concern any endorsement of a practice which is in opposition to the principles which inspired that decision.

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