Europe. The Common Market. The European Economic Community. The European Union.
Whatever you call the group of nations working together, it certainly causes a high level of emotional engagement. Since the referendum on 23rd June, it causes some vicious reactions.
The UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC) on 1st January 1973. The government used the term “Common Market” to explain the basis of the EEC to the public.
More than just a Free Trade Area
The EEC was a political union. It was not just a free trade area.
- There was already a European Free Trade area (EFTA) and the UK was a founding member. We issued stamps in 1967 to celebrate our membership of EFTA – so it wasn’t a secret. The UK application for membership was resubmitted in 1967 after being rejected the first time by Charles De Gaul. He saw UK membership as a Trojan horse for influence from the USA. Negotiations started in 1970 and the UK joined in 1973 – a total of six years from application to joining. It would seem a bit odd for the UK Government to decide to undertake a six-year process to simply move from one free trade area to another; from EFTA to EEC.
- The EEC was not just a “common market”. On the day the UK joined, the Prime Minister, Edward Heath said, “It is going to be a gradual development and obviously things are not going to happen overnight. But from the point of view of our everyday lives, we will find there is a great cross-fertilisation of knowledge and information, not only in business but in every other sphere”. Remember this is before the 1975 referendum. During that referendum, the Government issued an information leaflet called “Britain’s New Deal in Europe”.
The Government Leaflet
“The aims of the Common Market are:
- To bring together the people of Europe.
- To raise living standards and improve working conditions.
- To promote growth and boost world trade.
- To help the poorest regions of Europe and the rest of the world.
- To help maintain peace and freedom.”
A Political Union
“To bring together the people of Europe” obviously means politically. Certainly, no one had suggested physically moving the whole population of Europe to a single town, culturally we are pretty close anyway (we have spent several centuries fighting each other, after all). “To raise living standards and improve working conditions” certainly hints at the social chapter, and “To help the poorest regions of Europe” certainly suggests that richer countries would support the poorer countries.
So both logic and information produced, printed and distributed free by the Government show that this wasn’t simply a “common market” or trading arrangement.
So if you’ve been told that “we never signed up for this”… that was a lie.