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History::United Kingdom withdrawal from the European Union

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History The United Kingdom (UK) joined the European Economic Community (EEC), commonly referred to as the Common Market in the UK, on 1 January 1973. This was done under the Conservative government of Edward Heath. The opposition Labour Party, led by Harold Wilson, contested the October 1974 general election with a commitment to renegotiate Britain's terms of membership of the EEC and then hold a referendum on whether to remain in the EEC on the new terms.

1975 referendum

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In 1975 the United Kingdom held a referendum in which the electorate was asked whether the UK should remain in the EEC. All of the major political parties and mainstream press supported continuing membership of the EEC. However, there were significant splits within the ruling Labour party, the membership of which had voted 2:1 in favour of withdrawal at a one-day party conference on 26 April 1975. Since the cabinet was split between strongly pro-Europeans and strongly anti-Europeans, Harold Wilson suspended the constitutional convention of Cabinet collective responsibility and allowed ministers to publicly campaign on both sides. In total, seven of the twenty-three members of the cabinet opposed EEC membership.

On 5 June 1975, the electorate were asked to vote yes or no on the question: "Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community (Common Market)?" Every administrative county in the UK had a majority of "Yes", except the Shetland Islands and the Outer Hebrides. In line with the outcome of the vote, the United Kingdom remained within the EEC.

Yes votes Yes (%) No votes No (%) Turnout (%)
17,378,581 67.2 8,470,073 32.8 64.5

Further developments

The opposition Labour Party campaigned in the 1983 general election on a commitment to withdraw from the EEC.<ref name = "foot">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> It was heavily defeated as the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher was re-elected.<ref name = "foot"/> The Labour Party subsequently changed its policy.<ref name = "foot"/>

As a result of the Maastricht Treaty, the EEC became the European Union.

The Referendum Party was formed in 1994 by Sir James Goldsmith to contest the 1997 general election on a platform of providing a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU.<ref name=wood>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=news }}</ref> It fielded candidates in 547 constituencies at that election and won 810,860 votes.<ref name = "ref party"/> It failed to win a single parliamentary seat as its vote was spread out, losing its deposit (funded by Goldsmith) in 505 constituencies.<ref name = "ref party">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref>

The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) was also formed in the early 1990s. It achieved third place in the UK during the 2004 European elections, second place in the 2009 European elections and first place in the most recent European elections.

Referendum promise

{{#invoke:main|main}} In 2012, British Prime Minister David Cameron rejected calls for a referendum on the UK's EU membership, but suggested the possibility of a future referendum "to ensure the UK's position within an evolving EU has 'the full-hearted support of the British people".<ref> {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=news }}</ref> <ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref><ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=news }}</ref> In January 2013, Cameron announced that the Conservative Party would hold an in-out referendum on EU membership before the end of 2017, on a renegotiated package, if elected in 2015.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref>

UKIP won the 2014 European elections and gained their first elected MP in October 2014. Douglas Carswell won a by-election after defecting from the Conservative Party to UKIP.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> Mark Reckless, another defector from the Conservatives, subsequently won another by-election for UKIP in the autumn of 2014. UKIP won only seat (held by Carswell) in the 2015 general election, although it finished third in the popular vote.

The Conservative Party, led by David Cameron, won the 2015 general election. Soon afterwards the European Union Referendum Bill 2015–16 was introduced into parliament to enable the referendum.


United Kingdom withdrawal from the European Union sections
Intro  History  Support for withdrawal  Opposition to withdrawal  Public opinion  References  

History
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