The 1975 referendum on EEC membership
in The British political elite and Europe, 1959–1984
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Prime Minister Wilson’s decision to hold a referendum on Common Market membership in 1975 had a huge impact not only on both the Labour and Conservative parties, but also on individual members of the political elite. Events leading up to the referendum are analysed: these include the general elections of 1974 and the crucial House of Commons three-day debate on the Labour government’s recommendation that Britain remain a member of the EEC. This chapter explores Wilson’s motives for holding a referendum, and despite a clear verdict from the public, demonstrates how the issue was to be far from settled. This was a period of particular significance for several leading players in the European debate. As such, analysis is provided on the reasons why some members of the political elite changed their positions on Europe, and the highly significant consequences for the parties and individuals following the 1975 referendum.

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