AS BEFITS Europe’s awkward partner, Britain’s forthcoming referendum on its relationship with the continent will not be its first. In 1975, only two years after Britain acceded to the European Economic Community, the Labour government of Harold Wilson held an in/out referendum, as it had promised during the previous year’s election campaign. Then, as now, the prime minister pledged to renegotiate the country’s terms of membership, and put the new deal to the electorate. The result was a resounding two-to-one vote to stay in.
If opinion polls are to be believed, the next referendum—due to take place before the end of 2017—will be much tighter. The 1975 vote offers some useful hints as to how both sides might prepare their cases. It also points to some of the political consequences that could flow from such an unusual event. ∞∞∞∞∞ SEE MORE ∞∞∞∞∞