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1975: 'I voted for a common market'
As Europe enters the most critical period in its history - after "No" votes in France and the Netherlands on the new EU constitution - we publish your memories of the 1975 referendum in Britain.

It was the UK's first ever national referendum and the result was a resounding "Yes" to stay in the European Economic Community, despite deep divisions within the then Labour government on the issue.

Your memories:

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received.

I was 16 and I remember it vividly, especially the televised debate at the Oxford Union. My stepfather and I watched it together and were delighted when Barbara Castle failed to make her case against.

I think people have forgotten how hostile some socialists were to the EU and how in favour most conservatives were.

My stepfather was a true-blue old-fashioned conservative and was very much in favour (just like Margaret Thatcher).

I was a bit politically undecided as a teenager but thought it was a good idea because it would bring peace and prosperity to Europe and I feel that promise has been kept.
Donald Lush, UK

I was just 14 in 1975 but can remember my Mum picking up her weekly wages and finding leaflets in them.

They stated: "A YES vote would ensure no more European wars for my generation," and: "A YES vote would guarantee prosperity for jobs and the future."

She voted Yes, as did my dad, because they believed in the principle of a Common Market, with the thought of no more European wars into the bargain.

I understood their reasoning then, and still do now! However, if the ballot paper had said "Do you support the principal of a European superstate with many national powers handed over the bureaucrats in Brussels?" I think the result would be a little different, don't you?

Don't get me wrong. As an adult with three children myself, the prospect of a war-free continent fills me with hope.

I have both French and German friends whom I speak with a great deal and as far as I can make out the people of these countries are equally disillusioned with the whole EU ethos! A common market? Yes! a United States of Europe? NO, NON! NEIN!
Steve Johnson, England

It was the first time I ever voted and I voted no.

I did not believe the politicians' assertion that the EEC was to further trade and that there was absolutely no political agenda.

I smelt a rat and with the passage of time it is clear that my guess was correct.
Richard Buxton, UK

I was only six-years-old in 1975 but I can remember the referendum taking place, because we got the day off from school!

Whether you call it the European Community or the European Union it essentially amounts to the same thing: a framework for permanent co-operation among the countries and peoples of Europe.

Unfortunately it seems that many in Britain still haven't grasped that you can be British AND European at the same time.
Ben Carlin, UK
It's a historical innovation which has been highly successful. Democratic countries are working together in the pursuit of peace and prosperity.

During the last 30 years we have gone from nine member states to 25 - and still more countries are queuing up to join!

Unfortunately it seems that many in Britain still haven't grasped that you can be British AND European at the same time.

The EU gives us access to a massive market of more than 400 million people - just 20 miles off the Kent coast.

When you take into account that we have had 60 years of peace in Europe, the benefits of co-operation definitely outweigh the costs.

How anyone can imagine that Britain would be better off outside the EU - with no influence on European policies and legislation - is beyond my comprehension.
Ben Carlin, UK

I vividly remember this event, as it was the first time I was allowed to vote and I duly voted.

It stands out well in my memory because even though I was only 18, I felt that staying a member of the EEC was right, and voted FOR accordingly.

I think on the whole, Britons made the right decision that day!
Kevin Spencer, UK

Your heading says it all - I voted for a common market, i.e. a common trading area and not for a political change.

I have been dismayed over the last 20 years or so to find our sovereignty being slowly eroded and by the preponderance of rules and regulations from Brussels.

People with views like my own have been represented in the media as disliking foreigners etc but this is far from the truth. I like the different cultures throughout Europe and don't want it to become an homogeneous super state.

Vive la différence!
Eric, England

I can well remember debating the pros and cons of staying in Europe and felt that it would be better for Britain to pull out.

However, I allowed myself to be swayed by the fact that the major political parties were for once united in their approach.

I wish now that I had followed my own instincts and judgement and feel that many others probably fell into the same trap.

We have become like a bulldog with no teeth.
Kathryn Jones, Tyne and Wear
Holding referenda again in the hope of bullying voters into changing their minds and conforming to the wishes of central government should never be allowed. It is a subtle form of brainwashing and social engineering.

However, once there has been a change of national government, I think it is quite appropriate to have another referendum, should there be sufficient public interest.

It is disturbing to see national governments effectively refusing to accept the 'No' vote of their subjects for the European Constitution. They should have been out of office for some time before such major issues can be reconsidered, otherwise Europe would be totally destabilised, which would be in nobody's interest.

Democracy means accepting the will of the people, not going through the motions of doing so with the hidden agenda of refloating the same raft of policies at a future date with a few alterations here and there to make it look like something new.

To those in doubt I say, "Follow your own judgement, when voting in a referendum. Democracy is the voice of the people, but it is the voice of the people giving their own opinions, not echoing the wishes of their leaders."

Thankfully in this country we do not have evil dictators, but the possibility that such could arise from the Eastern European sector is by no means impossible and the more centralised Europe becomes, the greater the danger.

Do we really want countries that have massive problems of their own spreading them about the European community like some virus?

I wish Britain had kept its sovereignty or pulled out of Europe altogether. We have become like a bulldog with no teeth.
Kathryn Jones, Tyne and Wear

Admittedly I was only 12-years-old at the time, but it was a hot topic for discussion with the adults.

My lasting impression was that almost everyone had voted "no", and nobody could understand how it could have been a landslide "yes" result ...
Ian, UK

I was living in Northern Ireland at the time and remember going with my parents as they voted (I was nine at the time).

The result in Northern Ireland was a shock - but a good one! The Ulster Unionists, the DUP and Sinn Fein were all against and the only major party in favour were the SDLP. Still the yes vote was triumphant.

Watching Ian Paisley's bubble burst on the afternoon's results programme is a fond memory still. The EU has been good for Northern Ireland, though it is a great pity that the three anti-European parties are now the only ones represented in the European Parliament.

The EU also shows that even people whose hate was as deeply ingrained as that between the French, the Poles and the Germans can be overcome. If they can do it, so can the people of Northern Ireland.
Adrian, UK

There is little doubt that voters in the 1975 referendum were misled by the Yes campaign. The question on the voting form was "Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community (Common Market)?", and there was no talk prior to the vote of this leading to a Federal State of Europe.

Not for the first time, nor the last, were we completely misled by politicians, but at last we have the vision to see through the EEC shambles.
Brian H, UK

Are we already in Orwell's 1984? I could have sworn that the question I voted "Yes" to in 1975 was "Should we continue negotiations?", not "Should we stay in the EEC?".

I voted yes, imagining, naively, that our government would be able to negotiate an acceptable free-trade agreement out of the unacceptable treaty then on the table.
Sam Dauncey, UK

Like many of my friends I voted 'Yes'. We believed that our membership would be the key to a bright new future, and the end to passports for European travel. There would be no problems if we wanted to work in France, or if we became ill whilst there - all of us would be citizens of a single European community.

In retrospect we were terribly naive, and a little idealistic, but we didn't think so then. We fell for the message that the 'yes' campaigners put out. I fervently hope that we wouldn't make the same mistake again, should we be faced with a referendum on the EU constitution.
Peter Thomas, UK

We were lied to then, and we have been lied to ever since. When we say no they find a compromise to get what they want anyway.
Roy Garrett, Scotland

I remember the campaign well. We were told that we would be able to travel through EC countries without a passport - untrue.

We would pay the same price in France or Germany for an item as over here - untrue. It would safeguard our jobs - untrue.

At no time was there even a hint of a federal Europe - I am sure if there had have been I, and many others, would not have voted yes.

Needless to say I shall not be voting yes again to any government promise connected with Europe.

I love Europe and have travelled widely there but as much as I love their countries I do NOT want to be part of a federal Europe run by people who do not have our interests at heart.

Oddly enough when speaking to people in France and Germany there are a lot of people who feel exactly the same as I do.
Vicky George, UK

This was the first vote I was eligible to participate in. I was duped then as I have been by politicians ever since.

I voted for a common market in preference to membership of EFTA, not a federalist, Soviet Union style European super state.

Why do politicians not represent the wishes of the electorate but rather the furtherance of their own ends?
David Quarrell, UK

I was only 16 at the time but remember thinking how unfair it was that the "no" campaign was up against the equally funded "yes" campaign plus the UK government.

Two versus one is not a fair contest.

However, I was in favour of the UK joining because Europe was enjoying a long period of peace and this would further it. And if it did not further it, at least the UK would divide the EEC!
Jonathan D, UK

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Margaret Thatcher with other
In 1975 - Margaret Thatcher campaigned for a "Yes" vote


Parisian holds up
In 2005 - French voters win the "no" vote against the EU constitution

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