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UK Confidential Monday, 1 January, 2001, 00:40 GMT
Transcripts: The Prime Minister
Sir Edward Heath
Sir Edward Heath surprised the pundits by winning the 1970 General Election - and was determined to take the UK into the European Economic Community. He told UK Confidential what his thinking was at the time.

Today the Conservatives do not appear united over Europe. But you managed it. What was it that you tried to get the Conservative Party united behind?

Membership of the European Community. Every aspect of it.

And we got them unified when we had the final debate in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords. It was fully supported.

Were you aware of any difficulty then in persuading public opinion that Europe was going to be a good thing?

The problem is explaining to the public the intricacies of joining another organisation which has had many years to build up its structure.

It was quite obvious to me that they were not going to change their structure to take us in.

I recognised that after 22 years, we were going to have problems in getting the (other members) to adjust.

How conscious were you at the time that economic and monetary union was a major aspect of what the European Community would mean?

It was bound to be a major aspect. What you have to weigh up is the overall benefit for each particular country and it's up to them to decide that when they apply to go in or decide not to go in. We realised that there were going to be great opportunities for us.

Sovereignty is something you can use for your own good. That's the whole purpose to having a shared sovereignty.

Sir Edward Heath
We recognised there was a problem there (with public perception) but the way to deal with it was to show that it was overcome by our success in work in the Community.

It isn't just a particular question of sovereignty.

After all look what we surrender in sovereignty to Nato. One country attacked is everybody is attacked.

Doesn't say you can go away and consider whether you like it or not. It's an absolute commitment.

But at the time the press and the public seemed to have just obsessed about milk and butter and lamb prices. They didn't get this picture.

No this is quite untrue. This is swallowing the propaganda which has been put out.

When I first negotiated with Harold Macmillan as prime minister, 1951, in my opening speech I said that our purpose was to join a community which was going to be full.

I then specified it all and I emphasised that the first part is not the question of trades and goods and so on, but the nature of the relationship between the countries and this was to be whole-hearted.

I've emphasised that in every speech I've made, ever since I negotiated then and I kept the same theme when I was leader of the opposition in '65-70 and then began to put it into effect and people knew it.

And when we had the vote in the House of Commons, we had ten full days' debate, ten full days on the big issue.

Today you're lucky if you get a day. The whole thing was thoroughly thrashed out and explained to people.

And do you think that the aspects of sovereignty that were implicit in it were given the priority that they deserved at the time?

Yes it was. Sovereignty is something you can use for your own good and by putting our share of sovereignty into the Community, we are able to share in all its benefits.

Sir Edward Heath
1950: Elected MP
1959: Joined Cabinet
1963: Europe negotiator
1965: Party leader
1970: Prime Minister
1972: EEC entry
1974: Defeated at polls
Other members put their share of sovereignty into the Community as well, and we share that.

That's the whole purpose to having a shared sovereignty where it's of benefit to you.

I believe that the unity of Europe is essential if we're going to maintain a peaceful Europe and if Europe is going to have an effective voice in the world, and that's why we should have a European Union.

And I said it constantly. Of course other people are going to have their doubts, that's up to them.

Looking back, do you think there's anything that you could have done differently in 1970 that might have helped to generate more enthusiasm for Europe?

But there was enthusiasm for it. We got our majority in the House of Commons.

When we had the referendum in '75, Wilson had said he would never have a referendum. It must always be settled by Parliament and he was quite right.

Nowadays everybody's demanding that every damned little thing has to have a referendum and that's the consequence. That is the failure of Parliament to meet people's needs.

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