The EU Referendum last time around (1975)

Do you remember the last time we had a referendum on Europe, in 1975? I do. Most Tories were vociferously in favour then. I was only 12 so couldn’t vote, but I would have voted No then largely on the grounds that Ted Heath had taken us in without bothering to consult. Now, 40 years on, I have grown up a bit and I am convinced that on balance our membership of the EU is a good thing for Britain and to leave now would jeopardise our economic and social wellbeing.

Kmflett's Blog

The EU Referendum last time around (1975)

Thatcher 9 April 1975


The Wilson Government’s Referendum on Britain’s EU membership was held 41 years ago on 5th June 1975. Given that Britain is set to have a further Referendum on the matter June 23rd you might think that the 1975 Referendum would be of some media note. However the media continues to be very bad at history. It requires things like research and fact checking, not matters there are big in the 2016 media not least because of resources.

The result in case (most likely) you are too young to remember or have simply forgotten was a fairly decisive vote to stay in the EU. The idea of a Referendum had been developed at least in part by Tony Benn. He saw it as a way in general of extending popular participation in politics and also specifically a way of getting round deep ‘no’…

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13 Responses to “The EU Referendum last time around (1975)”

  1. enchantment9 Says:

    Enjoyed reading, thank you. Undecided at present though.. 💐

  2. Anton Garrett Says:

    Out! Love Europe, hate the EU…

    • Hate. Sums up the “out” campaign for me.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Love democracy, hate the EU!

        Here are the 1975 campaign leaflets, for comparison:

      • telescoper Says:

        Hate. Sums up the “out” campaign for me.

      • telescoper Says:

        If you think the EU is undemocratic, what is your view on the unelected House of Lords?

      • “If you think the EU is undemocratic, what is your view on the unelected House of Lords?”

        Good point. Pot, kettle, black.

        The EU Parliament is actually more democratic than the UK Parliament, since it is elected via PR, even in the UK. The problem is that it cannot suggest its own laws, merely approve, or veto, laws suggested by the commission. The commission consists of people appointed by democratically elected governments, and they are not appointed for life, so arguably not as bad as the House of Lords.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Phillip, you might wait for my reply before deciding.

        Peter: love Nazis (they’re still people), hate Nazism.

        As for the House of Lords, I do not approve of it as it stands.

      • “you might wait for my reply before deciding”

        What reply? What decision?

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Whether the pot was calling the kettle black, or whatever you meant by that.

  3. Chris Chaloner Says:

    Very dangerous to leave comments ofn a political issue… However, it seems to me that successive UK Governments (of all parties, so maybe I can avoid being flamed) have failed to manage European institutions properly. They have not recognised that other countries have (a) objectives and (b) long term strategies. This means these other countries can manoeuvre the various European institutions (EU, CEREN, ESA, ESO, …) to meet their national targets, whereas UK governments have treated these institutions as rather low level bodies to send junior staff along to. It’s probably a relic of Empire – UK Governments don’t really believe that Johnny Foreigner might actually be more capable than we are because he invests in R&D and has a coherent industrial and economic strategy.
    (Head now below the parapet).

  4. Whether or not a brexit is good or bad for the UK or the EU, I strongly support the concept that a referendum should decide such things. In general, I am in favour of representative democracy, but there are times when a referendum—subject to restrictions (see below) is a good thing. Representative democracy is a means to an end, and everyone voting on everything is not better (division of labour is good).

    A referendum must meet the following criteria:

    It has to be essentially a yes/no question.*

    It has to be binding.

    It can be overturned only by another referendum.

    It has to arise from an initiative.

    Courts have to decide in advance whether all possible outcomes are constitutional.

    *Any issue can be phrased as yes/no, and even clear issues have details to be worked out. The point is that in some cases the yes/no question is much more important than details, while in other cases details are more important. For example, EU membership yes or no is essentially a yes/no question, but an EU constitution is not. (Voting on a constitution by referendum is absurd, since such documents are inherently the result of discussion and cannot be usefully produced via an EU-wide wiki or whatever.)

    • And people should be properly informed. The case for out seems based on personal ambitions, hate and provincialism. The case for in is based on scare stories and personal ambitions. Reported by a press who are ruled by what sells and by personal ambitions. And we are not allowed to opt out of that.

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