AP WAS THERE: Britain joins EU in 1973

LONDON (AP) " EDITOR'S NOTE: Britain voted in a referendum Thursday to leave the European Union. Britain was not included when the precursor to the EU was formed following World War II, but finally joined the group " known at the time as the European Economic Community, or the Common Market " on January 1, 1973.

The Associated Press is making its original coverage from that day available with photos.


Britain enters the European Common Market on New Year's day almost equally divided on whether the historic move is a good idea, the latest public opinion poll showed Monday.

The survey appeared to indicate a belated swing toward public acceptance of the act of membership. Earlier polls showed the British voters, some 60 percent, against entry.

The newest survey found 39 percent of those asked were unhappy about joining the Common Market, 38 percent happy and 23 percent with no opinion.

It was taken among nearly 1,000 Britons in all parts of the country and all walks of life in mid-December by the opinion research center for the British Broadcasting Corp.

and published Monday.

Opponents of Common Market entry generally fear higher food prices and loss of sovereignty. Backers say membership should reverse Britain's long economic decline since World War II and give this nation a stronger voice in world affairs.

Much of the controversy evaporated however, as the entry date approached. Anti-market newspapers shifted their campaigns from opposing membership to preparing for a European role.

Labor opposition leader Harold Wilson also sought to move away from the long controversy in a New Year's message to his party which was deeply split all year on the Common Market question.

As Prime Minister, Wilson favored Common Market entry. As opposition leader, he opposed the entry terms negotiated by Prime Minister Edward Heath's Conservative party. The turnaround split Labor wide open.

The opposition is still committed to renegotiating British entry terms when it next gains power. But in his New Year's message, Wilson sought to shift attention away from that controversial stand as well.

He stressed the time has come "to unite in a single-minded determination to rid this country of the most arrogant authoritarian and incompetent administration since the 1930s," and defeat Heath at the next election which must come by 1975.

For Heath, Common Market entry was one of the great triumphs of a political career. But when the moment came the prime minister was in Ottawa where he attended the funeral of former Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson.

In a radio interview recorded before he went to Ottawa, Heath said Britain's entry into the Common Market marked a degree of European unity "for which people have longed for centuries."

"I find it a very moving moment and at the same time a very exciting one," Heath said. He denied that the British people lacked his own enthusiasm, saying:

"I think a lot of people do share this excitement, particularly the younger generation. I think, in their phlegmatic and pragmatic way, the British are now waiting for action. And as we in the community together take action, then I think more and more will respond to it."

The Common Market is a customs union with all members letting in each other's goods duty free and charging the same tariffs on imports.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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