The upcoming EU referendum represents a seminal point in the UK’s relations with fellow Commonwealth members, as well as London’s international relationships. On 24 May, Remain/Brexit debaters got the benefit of hindsight when they compared the European debates of 1975 and 2016 with former British Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind.
He was among a stellar line-up of speakers and scholars at the one-day ‘Brexit – then and now’ symposium organised by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICWS), part of the School of Advanced Study, University of London. Held at Senate House, it was a welcome opportunity to gain insights into how today’s European Union differs from the European Economic Community of 1975.
In her summary, Brexit – then and now [Word], Dr Sue Onslow, a senior lecturer at ICWS, details the key points that emerged from this event, which not only discussed and compared the 1975 referendum campaign and outcome, but also looked ahead at the prospects for the 23 June vote and potential consequences.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who believes that from a security point of view, Britain leaving the EU would be ‘nothing short of a monumental folly’, was one of many participants. All were experts in history and politics and represented a range of former policymakers and advisers, universities, higher education institutions and the media.
Among their numbers were Professor Philip Murphy (ICWS); Richard Bourne, former Guardian journalist, now senior research fellow at ICWS and the event’s organiser, John Palmer (former Guardian European editor and political director of the European Policy Centre, Brussels); Dr Robert Saunders (lecturer in modern British history, Queen Mary, University of London), who is currently working on a book on the 1975 referendum provisionally called ‘Common Market or Bust! The Britain and Europe Referendum, 1975’; Dr Helen Parr (senior lecturer, University of Keele), William Keegan, former Financial Times journalist, who is now a commentator for The Observer, visiting professor at the Policy Institute at King’s College and author of many books, most recently Mr Osborne’s Economic Experiment: Austerity 1945-51 and 2010.
They were joined by Dr Piers Ludlow, associate professor, in the London School of Economics Department of International History and author of Roy Jenkins and the European commission presidency, 1976-1980: at the heart of Europe, Lindsay Aqui, history and politics PhD student at Queen Mary, whose thesis is provisionally titled ‘An exceptional case: Britain, renegotiation, referendum and the European Economic Community, January 1973–June 1975’, Professor Sir Robert Worcester (MORI founder); Richard Bourne, ICWS senior research fellow, and Graham Avery. Now a senior member at St Antony’s College, Oxford, Graham Avery was a member of the team that negotiated British accession to the EEC in 1969–72, and was private secretary to two ministers of agriculture, fisheries and food. In addition, he worked in the European Commission, Brussels, from 1973-2006 as a policy adviser in agricultural policy, foreign affairs and enlargement. His last post was as director for strategy, coordination and analysis in the Directorate General for External Relations.
Read the full summary of ‘Brexit – then and now‘ [Word]
Movements of public opinion [PowerPoint] in 1975 and 2016, and the issues that galvanise the public
Ipsos MORI Political Monitor [Pdf]– May 2016