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Ever closer union?

A new Europe
Britain shut out
Joining the
The Thatcher era
Backing away
from Union
Blair and euroland

The BBC report De Gaulle's 1963 veto

Britain shut out

Charles de Gaulle
De Gaulle opposed UK entry
As the Six pressed on and formed a European Economic Community, Britain feared membership would have too severe an impact on the UK's Commonwealth markets which still counted for a large part of the nation's trade.

Britain instead satisfied itself with creating, along with the Scandinavian countries, Portugal and Switzerland, the rival European Free Trade Area.

But as the 60s drew on, the situation was turned on its head and the EEC - eventually set up in 1958 - accounted for more and more of the UK's trade.

Key Dates
1958Treaty of Rome in force
1960EFTA set up
1961UK applies to EEC
1962CAP set up
1963De Gaulle's veto
1967UK applies again

Entry was beginning to make economic sense, and Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan applied to join the Six in 1961.

Only a few years earlier Tory Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd had roundly dismissed the EEC as "much ado about nothing".

Macmillan's decision was a striking measure of just how attitudes had changed, and how economically successful Europe was proving to be.

No three cheers for British entry Konrad Adenauer

But he was only to find he had missed the European boat. French President Charles de Gaulle vetoed the UK's admission, along with bids from Ireland and Denmark, ending talk of expanding the community.

Macmillan wanted to take Britain in

De Gaulle was backed in his decision by German leader Konrad Adenauer. Both men feared the UK was still too close to America to co-operate fully with its European partners.

In opposition, Labour came out strongly against EEC membership under leader Hugh Gaitskell, who issued a passionate warning as to the effects membership would have on the UKís sovereignty.

But Labourís position was soon to change once the party returned to power.

The end of a thousand years of history Hugh Gaitskell speaks out against the EEC

Gaitskellís successor Harold Wilson attempted to join the community later in the decade, only to have de Gaulle veto the UKís membership once more.

Once de Gaulle fell from power in 1969, Britain was free to apply a third time.

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