27 November 1967: Charles de Gaulle vetoes Britain's entry to the EEC

On this day in 1967, French president Charles de Gaulle vetoed Britain's attempt to join the European Economic Community, claiming Britain didn’t agree with the core ideas of integration.

Charles De Gaulle in Montreal
De Gaulle believed that Britain didn't agreed with the core ideas of integratio
(Image credit: © Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

After World War II, Britain played a key role in protecting Western Europe, keeping troops in West Germany and helping to set up Nato. The foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, was also an early supporter of European integration. In 1951 he said: “My policy is to be able to take a ticket at Victoria station and go anywhere I damn well please!”

However, Britain declined the opportunity to join the European Coal and Steel Community that same year, because of fears it would break up Britain's steel industry, which had been nationalised. As a result, Britain was not among the six countries that signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957, setting up the European Economic Community.

Strong European growth led the UK to submit an application in 1961, along with Denmark, Ireland and Norway. However, the French president, Charles de Gaulle, vetoed all four applications in 1963, arguing that Britain didn't agree with the core ideas of integration. So the UK formed the European Free Trade Association with six other nations. In 1967 Britain again attempted to join, and de Gaulle vetoed it again.

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But in 1969, de Gaulle departed, to be replaced by the more conciliatory Georges Pompidou, and French attitudes softened. After the 1970 election, the British prime minister, Ted Heath, pursued a third round of talks, and Britain joined in 1973 (as did Ireland and Denmark). A referendum in 1975 confirmed UK membership, with two-thirds of voters backing a slightly renegotiated deal. But tensions between Britain and Europe's institutions continued over the decades and Britain voted to leave in 2016.

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

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