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1973: Britain joins the EEC

VIDEO : Interview with Edward Heath

The United Kingdom has become a fully-fledged member of the European Economic Community.

Ireland and Denmark also joined Britain in becoming the newest members of the community, bringing the total number of member states to nine.

At midnight last night a Union Jack flag was raised at the EEC's headquarters in Brussels to mark the occasion.

Celebrations were held in the city and one of Britain's new European Commissioners, George Thomson, joined revellers in a torch lit procession.

Prime Minister Edward Heath is optimistic that Britain's membership of the community will bring prosperity to the country.

He 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.

"And this will enable us to be more efficient and more competitive in gaining more markets not only in Europe but in the rest of the world."

More than 1,000 Britons will relocate to Brussels over the coming months to take up their places as civil servants of the community.

Britain will be given four votes within the council, which proposes policies on issues ranging from the environment to public health.

Membership applications by the UK to join the EEC were refused in 1963 and 1967 because the French President of the time Charles de Gaulle doubted the UK's political will.

It is understood, however, his real fear was that English would suddenly become the common language of the community.

In Context
The European Economic Community was officially established by the Treaty of Rome in 1957.

It then consisted of six member states - Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, West Germany and the Netherlands.

The European Union, as it is now known, now consists of 25 member states and presidency of the organisation changes annually.

Britain, Ireland and Denmark joined in 1973, Greece joined in 1981, Spain and Portugal in 1986, Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995.

On 1 May 2004, 10 new states from Eastern and Southern Europe joined the community. The EU is now the world's largest trading bloc by population, with about 455 million citizens.

Among its achievements, the community has been responsible for establishing the Single Market in 1993 and launching the Euro in 2002.

Former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath, who died in July 2005, regarded his greatest achievement as securing Britain's entry to what was the Common Market in 1973.


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