“Last time round I voted for a Common Market – not a United States of Europe.”
Actually, I vividly remember doing exactly that. I was quite clear that this was a step on the road to a United States of Europe and I can’t begin to tell you how exciting that was. I remember writing in my diary that “today, I became a citizen of Europe”.
I thought that it was the right decision then and, looking back, I am think I was right, given the circumstances.
The circumstances were that we were a small offshore island in a world of big power blocs and heavy handed dictators. The Soviet Empire held sway in the East, Europe was still an armed camp and Berlin was still a divided city. The United States had only just finished fighting (and losing) a second proxy war with China in Vietnam (the first was Korea) and the prospect of the nations of Southeast Asia falling like dominos under the suzerainty of the Chinese communist dragon was all too real.
The spectre of an imminent nuclear Armageddon cast a long shadow over an uneasy world – it was not unknown for people to stockpile drugs so that, if The Bomb dropped, they could give their children a gentle death.
It was not a good time to be a small offshore island with a crumbling infrastructure, dysfunctional industrial relations and a dodgy economy. We needed to be part of a bigger club and we didn’t want to be the 51st state of America.
The EEC made sense economically and politically. It was shiny and it was new – it was the way forward. We would no longer be isolated – we would be better together. And it would annoy the French.