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Making a Federal Case: Youth Groups, Students and the 1975 European Economic Community Referendum Campaign to Keep Britain in Europe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)454-478
JournalTwentieth Century British History
Issue number4
Early online date2 Jan 2020
Accepted/In press20 Nov 2019
E-pub ahead of print2 Jan 2020
Published28 Nov 2020

King's Authors


To persuade the electorate to vote ‘Yes’ in the June 1975 referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Economic Community, Britain in Europe, the pro-European campaign organisation, adopted a pragmatic approach, focusing on the economic benefits of membership and warning about the potentially grave consequences of withdrawal. Importantly, they avoided discussing proposed future advances in European integration. However, this theme was of importance to pro-European youth and student campaign groups – the subject of this paper. Through a detailed analysis of their campaign literature, this article further transforms understanding of the 1975 referendum and, especially, the nature of the ‘Yes’ campaign by demonstrating how radical youth groups’ arguments for continued membership were. It argues that young activists yearned to discuss sovereignty and deeper integration in great detail as they offered idealistic visions for how the EEC could develop and benefit Britain. The article also advances knowledge of youth politics in the turbulent 1970s. Greater light is shone on the frustration pro-European youth groups felt towards the main Britain in Europe campaign. Meanwhile, it serves as a case study on the extent to which the perspectives of party-political youth groups and their superiors differed on a specific, highly salient policy issue.

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