Thursday, 2 June 2016

United Kingdom European Communities membership referendum, 1975

It's just three weeks to go until the 'Referendum on the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union'. Yesterday, while searching for something else completely, I found two small objects that I'd held on to from my secondary school days in the 1970's that are very timely reminders of the very first referendum to be held nationwide in the UK. 

Of course I wasn't old enough to vote on the 5th June 1975 - forty one years ago this month - but this was big news which certainly spilled into the playground. 

Above is my old ticket wallet courtesy of Southern Rail on which I'd affixed a SAY "YES" TO EUROPE red sticker on the front. These stickers would have been given out in the streets at the time, and a few handfuls found their way to us kids who'd stick them on exercise books, duffle bags and the like.

I've also discovered a KEEP BRITAIN IN EUROPE badge which was given to me by a class mate whose father I think was quite active in politics at the time. Interesting to note the address of the publishers - it's in Old Park Lane, a very smart apartment block just round the corner from Piccadilly's Hard Rock Cafe (which had opened in 1971, four years before the referendum).

Tin Badge, 1975
The '75 referendum demanded a simple Yes or No to the question: "Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community?". Back then the nation responded with a whopping 67% saying YES. 

It was just two years earlier that the UK had joined what was commonly termed 'The Common Market'. I also remember the various 'Fanfare for Europe' activities back in January 1973 - like the commemorative stamps that were issued by the Post Office. YES, just 3 pence to send a letter back then...

On the same day as the postage stamp issue, there was an unusual football fixture as part of the Fanfare for Europe which was held at Wembley Stadium - between The THREE new entrants into the Common Market and The SIX current members. A dazzling line-up of great players of the time included Northern Ireland's Pat Jennings, England's Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton, and Scotland's Colin Stein playing for The THREE. And on the pitch for The SIX that night were the West German stars Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller, and Holland's Johan Neeskens.

Official Programme Cover
For the record The THREE won 2-0 in front of some 36,500 spectators - in a stadium that then held 100,000. The scorers were Henning Jensen (Denmark) and Scotland's Colin Stein.

And now, some 43 years on from the year that began as a Fanfare for Europe, the citizens of the UK are set to put a CROSS in the box next to their answer to the question "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union".

Stickers printed in 2016 for the 'IN campaign', handed to me in the street this week 


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  2. A very interesting and nice blog! We are a German museum and would like to get in touch with you. We are planning a temporary exhibition and are looking for attractive objects. It would be great if you would contact us: Kind regards!