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FCO 30/1048

The question of sovereignty was discussed in an official Foreign and Commonwealth Office document (FCO 30/1048) that became public in January 2002 under the rules for availability after thirty years. It listed subjects on which "Parliamentary freedom to legislate" would be constrained:

  • Agriculture
  • Customs duties
  • Free movement of labour, services and capital
  • Transport
  • Social Security for migrant workers

The document concluded (paragraph 26) that it was advisable to put the considerations of influence and power before those of formal sovereignty.[1]

The UK was not a signatory to the Treaty of Rome, which created the European Communities, including the European Economic Community (EEC), in 1957 and the UK's applications in 1963 and 1967 were vetoed by French President Charles de Gaulle, who believed the UK was incompatible with Europe, citing "a number of aspects of Britain's economy, from working practices to agriculture" and a "deep-seated hostility" to pan-European projects.[2]

Once de Gaulle relinquished the French presidency in 1969, the UK made a third and successful application for membership. The Treaty of Accession was signed in January 1972 by Prime Minister Edward Heath.[3] The European Communities Act 1972 was enacted on 17 October and the UK instrument of ratification was deposited on 18 October,[4] letting the UK membership of the EEC, or "Common Market", come into effect on 1 January 1973.[5]

Comparison of the results of the 1975 and 2016 referendums.


On 5 June 1975, the UK held its first national referendum, with the electorate asked to vote on the question: "Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community (Common Market)?" Every county and region returned majority "Yes" votes, apart from the Shetland Islands and the Outer Hebrides. With a turnout of just under 65%, the outcome of the vote was 67.2% in favour of staying in the EC.[6] Support for the UK to leave the EC in 1975, in the data, appears unrelated to the support for Leave in the 2016 referendum.[7]

In 1979 the UK opted out of the new European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) which was the precursor of the Euro. In 1985 the United Kingdom ratified the Single European Act, the first major revision to the Treaty of Rome without a referendum. In October 1990 – despite the deep reservations of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher but under pressure from senior ministers – the United Kingdom joined the ERM with the Pound Sterling pegged to the Deutschmark.

Maastricht and after

In September 1992 the UK was withdrew from the ERM after the Pound came under pressure from currency speculators (see Black Wednesday), at a cost to UK taxpayers in excess of £3 billion.[8][9]

On 1 November 1993 the European Communities became the European Union as a result of the Maastricht Treaty,[10] reflecting the evolution from an economic union to a political union.[11] From 1 December 2009 the Treaty of Lisbon updated and renamed the Maastricht Treaty as the Treaty on European Union (TEU), and the Treaty of Rome as the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).


  1. "FCO 30/1048, Legal and constitutional implications of UK entry into EEC ". National Archives.
  2. "1967: De Gaulle says 'non' to Britain – again". BBC News. 27 November 1976.
  3. "Into Europe".
  4. "English text of EU Accession Treaty 1972, Cmnd. 7463" (PDF).
  5. "1973: Britain joins the EEC". BBC News. 1 January 1973.
  6. "Research Briefings – The 1974–1975 UK Renegotiation of EEC Membership and Referendum". Parliament of the United Kingdom.
  7. "Who Voted for Brexit? A comprehensive district level analysis". Becker, Fetzer, Novy, University of Warwick.
  8. Dury,H. "Black Wednesday" (PDF).
  9. Tempest, M. (2005-02-09). "Treasury papers reveal cost of Black Wednesday". The Guardian.
  10. "EU treaties". Europa (web portal).
  11. "The EU in brief". Europa (web portal).