Historical background

Overview of the UK

The United Kingdom is formed of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. While the UK has a central government, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland also have local governments with different powers and attributes.

Politically, the UK is organised as a constitutional monarchy and a unitary parliamentary democracy. In a constitutional monarchy, the head of the state is the monarch but his/her powers and authority are established by the constitution (although in this case Britain does not have a written constitution). Queen Elizabeth II is the current monarch of the UK.

In a parliamentary democracy, members of the parliament need to be elected by the people. As a unitary state, the UK has a central government with supreme powers. Only the central government can decide how much power it delegates to other administrative divisions (such as to the other constituent countries).

The UK’s early relationship with the EU

When the European Economic Community (EEC) was formed in 1957, the UK was not a member. Its first attempts to join the EEC came in 1963 and 1967. However, each time France vetoed the UK’s membership. This was because the French President, Charles de Gaulle, believed the UK’s economy and views on a potential union of Europe were incompatible with what the other EEC members wanted.

As a result, the UK’s membership of the EEC was only accepted after de Gaulle was no longer president. The Treaty of Accession was signed in 1972 and the UK became a member of the EEC in 1973. At that time the UK had a Conservative government.

The Labour Party campaigned heavily on this topic in the general elections of 1974, because the British people were not asked their opinion before the UK applied for EEC membership.

The Labour Party was not a strong supporter of European integration at that time, and feared that the prices of food in the EEC...

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