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The Significance of Britain's 1967 Application

Helen Parr

This paper argues that Britain's 1967 application was a significant turning point in Britain's relations with the EEC. It shows that despite Harold Wilson's prevarication about applying for membership, Britain's 1967 application was vital in preparing the ground for British accession in 1973. The British accepted a negotiating strategy that essentially accepted that Britain must adopt the 'terms' of entry. Hence, even though the application failed in the short term, it united the British political class in favour of a British future in the EEC, and it prepared opinion amongst the 'Five', in France, and in the European Commission to accept Britain.However, once Britain did become a member, there was significant opposition in Westminster and in the country. The timing of the second application resulted from the economic crisis of 1966. Thus, left's disavowal of the 'terms' of entry reflected more than just unhappiness about those terms: it was an attempt to unpick the consensus under which Labour governed in the late 1960s. It was one element in debates about Britain's economic and political future, and about Britain's place in European and international politics. This opposition was not the inevitable culmination of hostility or suspicion about Britain's place in Europe, as it is often portrayed. It was specific to the climate and to the crises of the times. The centre ground of opinion in British politics reflected a muted support for the fact that there was no alternative but British membership of the EEC.

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