Upside Down, Inside Out

Colin Kidd

  • Yes to Europe! The 1975 Referendum and Seventies Britain by Robert Saunders
    Cambridge, 509 pp, £24.99, March, ISBN 978 1 108 42535 3

In the 2014 independence referendum in Scotland, prudence, self-interest and the ministrations of Project Fear kept the Scottish electorate from succumbing to the over-optimistic prospectus presented by the SNP. Surely, David Cameron reckoned, the same formula would work again a mere two years later in the UK-wide Brexit referendum. After all, there was also the reassuring story of the UK’s first Euro-referendum in 1975. Then, the prime minister, Harold Wilson, had gone through the motions of a renegotiation of Britain’s place in the European Economic Community and, with that token effort behind him, shepherded the forces of pragmatism to a resounding victory for remaining in the Common Market. The pro-Europeans defeated the antis by a margin of 67 per cent to 33 per cent on the question ‘Do you think the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community (Common Market)?’ History might not take exactly the same course, but it seemed unlikely that the 2016 result would defy both of these historical parallels.

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