The second application
in The British political elite and Europe, 1959–1984
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Chapter 5 focuses primarily on the problems faced by Prime Minister Wilson in his struggle to keep his party united. Following Macmillan’s failed attempt at EEC entry, Wilson also found himself facing not only US pressure to apply for membership, but also from the pro-European right-wingers in his party. Having been seen to have strongly supported Gaitskell’s passionate speech opposing EEC membership, Wilson needed to be able to make an application without on the one hand appearing to shift his position on Europe, and on the other hand attempting to maintain party unity for electoral advantage. During this period, WiIson also faced the difficulty of combating leadership challenges from Roy Jenkins and James Callaghan. For both Macmillan’s and Wilson’s respective applications, the conditions of entry were inextricably linked with party management, with both leaders lacking total commitment to Europe. Wilson also used pressure from the CBI for Britain to join the EEC to his own advantage. As a consequence of his application, Wilson gained the support of British business.


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