European Union – our history revisited.
Forty one years ago today, the people of the United Kingdom voted by a large majority in a referendum to stay within the European Union. More than 65% of eligible voters supported the then Labour government’s campaign to stay in the European Union, or Common Market as it was commonly known as then, this was despite many cabinet ministers openly coming out in favour of a British withdrawal. This result was later called a “historic decision” by the Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
This victory for the government came after an extensive campaign against many in the ruling Labour Party and this followed a promise in Labours general election manifesto the previous October. The UK citizens had only one question to answer and this was “Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community (Common Market)?”
Britons voted “Yes” in the majority of the 68 administrative counties, regions and Northern Ireland. Only Shetland and the Western Isles voted against the EEC. Once the result was certain, the leaders of the pro European Union camp emerged from private celebrations to thank all campaign workers for their support and their efforts throughout the campaign.
The Home Secretary Roy Jenkins MP said ” It puts the uncertainty behind us and commits Great Britain to the European Union and also to playing an active, enthusiastic and constructive role in it”. The Conservative party headed by Margaret Thatcher who was elected as their leader just a few months before stated that “the Yes vote would not have happened without her parties support for it”. Her predecessor Edward Heath said “I’ve worked for this for 25 years, I was the prime minister who led Britain into the community and I’m naturally delighted that the referendum is working out as it is.”
Anti European Union members of the “No campaign” gracefully accepted the defeat and promised to work constructively within the European Union for the good of all. The Industry Secretary Tony Benn MP , who had previously come under severe criticism from Harold Wilson during the campaign, graciously said: “When the British people speak everyone, including members of Parliament, should tremble before their decision and that’s certainly the spirit with which I accept the result of the referendum.”
The United Kingdom’s trade union movement which was led by the TUC was also against remaining in the European Union and had previously boycotted all key advisory positions within the union since Britain joined in 1973. Len murray the TUC general Secretary said the boycott would now be lifted although he would remain adamantly opposed to the European Union.
Move the clock on 41 years and once again we have the same choice to make, do we stay within the European Union or do we leave. Are you still sat on the fence or have you decided which way you will vote. Why not tell us your decision and why you’ve come to make it.
The BBC has released some information to help the electorate make up their minds, You can find it here