40 years ago

Britain signed the Treaty of Rome and joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973. Then Britain backed continued membership of the EEC, by a large majority in a referendum held on 6 June 1975. In the run-up to that referendum the Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson declared that the Government would recommend a “Yes” vote. In addition, the then Conservatives Party leader Margaret Thatcher campaigned to stay in the Common Market.
Now, just like Wilson, British Prime Minister Cameron has a small majority. So, with the referendum to be held on 23 June there are some parallels with the events of over 40 years ago. In 1975, Government Ministers were given freedom to campaign on the side of their choosing – as now.
One argument that was put in 1975 was that if people vote “No” the EEC will not go away. A “No” vote would mean that Britain had no voice at the table of its biggest trading partner. That argument remains true. In 1975, it was said that; Commonwealth Governments want Britain to stay in the EEC. Again, that remains true. Interestingly it was Pierre Trudeau who spoke for Canada at that time.
Another argument that was used was: “Remember: All the other countries in the Market enjoy, like us, democratically elected governments answerable to their own parliaments and their own voters. They do not want to weaken their Parliaments any more than we would.” I believe that statement remains true too. Since, I don’t see the French becoming any less French or the Germans becoming any less German or any other Member State giving up on their own parliaments.
Liberal leader Jo Grimond said: “If we were to come out of Europe this summer I can see no other result except even fiercer inflation and even higher unemployment”. We have to remember that inflation in the 1970s was in double figures and reached over 25% at one stage. The British economy was in a dire situation. We certainly don’t have damaging inflation in 2016 but the basic economic arguments still apply.
Our last chance to vote on our membership of the EU was decisive. This summer, my hope is that there will be a decisive vote to REMAIN in the EU.

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