European Referendum – 2016 vs 1975

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Campaign leaflets from the Yes camp (Britain in Europe) and the No camp (The National Referendum Campaign)

As the country comes to terms with the implications of the historic decision to leave the EU, it’s useful to compare the referendum campaign debate with that of the 1975 referendum on continued EEC membership.

Official Government leaflet sent to every household in the UK, 1975

The TUC view on the referendum, April 1975. The document did not officially back either the Yes or No camp, but raised various concerns with the EC renegotiation and leant towards the No position.

The TUC Library contains a unique collection of material from the 1975 referendum, including the original legislation, the campaign literature from the Yes and No camps, and the official view of organisations such as the TUC, the trade unions, the Government, the Labour Party, etc.

As with the current referendum, there were big differences of opinion on both sides of the Yes and No campaigns in 1975. The TUC had opposed joining the EEC in 1973 and during the referendum leant towards the leave camp. Many in the wider labour and trade union movement also wanted to leave the EEC, although the official view of the Wilson Government was to remain (see above). But there were also divisions within the left, particularly on demographic lines. The organisation Young European Left campaigned for a decisive vote to remain, as it believed it was in the best interests of Britain’s young people (see below).

Leaflet produced by Young European Left, 1975

For more information about the items featured, or any other material the TUC Library holds, get in touch.

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