This is the second volume in The Official History of Britain and the European Community, and describes the events from 1963 up until the British referendum on the Common Market in 1975.
In 1963, General de Gaulle dashed Prime Minister Macmillan’s hopes of taking Britain into the European Community (the Common Market). When Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson tried again, de Gaulle again said ‘no’. Six years later, Prime Minister Edward Heath took Britain into the EEC. But by then the country was split and Harold Wilson, to keep the Labour Party from voting to leave, undertook to renegotiate Britain’s membership. When Labour won the 1974 election that renegotiation culminated in the first nationwide referendum ever held in the United Kingdom.
The British people voted by two to one to stay in the European Community, but British membership has been controversial ever since. This is the story of why three very different Prime Ministers all concluded that, in the British national interest, there was no viable alternative to joining the Common Market. In the words and documents of the time (those of politicians, diplomats and journalists from Britain, France and Germany) it relives the frustrations, successes and humiliations of British politicians as they wrestled with the most important issue of their generation. It shows, with the authority of the Government papers of the day, where and why today’s European controversy started and why yesterday’s challenges, and the way they were confronted, hold valid lessons for our time.
This book will be of much interest to students of British political history, European Union politics, Diplomatic History and International Relations in general.
"This is a useful addition to the existing literature on Britain and Europe. Such is the richness of the material, and the thoroughness of Wall’s account, that this is a book that will prove essential reading for anyone working on the troubled history of Britain’s attitude towards Europe. There is also plenty here for those more interested in the present and the future, but still sensitive to the importance and relevance of contemporary history." - N. Piers Ludlow, International Affairs, Vol. 88, 6, November 2012
Introduction 1. De Gaulle Says ‘No’: 1962-1963 2. Picking up the Pieces: 1963-1964 3. The Labour Government: a Toe in the Water: 1964-1966 4. Once More Unto the Breach: 1966-1967 5. We Will Not Take ‘No’ for an Answer: 1967 6. To Woo or to Win: Britain, France and Germany: 1967-1969 7. Dropping the Pilot and a New Hand at the Helm: The Start of Negotiations: 1969-1971 8. Good Thing, Bad Thing? The Terms of Entry and a Country Divided: 1971-1973 9. The Year of Living Dangerously: Britain’s First Year of European Community Membership: 1973-1974 10. Renegotiation and Referendum: 1974-1975 Notes on Principal People Mentioned
The Government Official History series began in 1919 with wartime histories, and the peacetime series was inaugurated in 1966 by Harold Wilson. The aim of the series is to produce major histories in their own right, compiled by historians eminent in the field, who are afforded free access to all relevant material in the official archives. The Histories also provide a trusted secondary source for other historians and researchers while the official records are not in the public domain. The main criteria for selection of topics are that the histories should record important episodes or themes of British history while the official records can still be supplemented by the recollections of key players; and that they should be of general interest, and, preferably, involve the records of more than one government department.