• 03 OCT 2011
By Glen Owen | Mail Online
It has been nearly four decades since the voice of the British people was last heard on Europe, when the pro-Common Market lobby won a 67 per cent majority in the 1975 referendum, two years after Edward Heath had taken us into Europe.
But as the binds with Brussels have grown tighter, through a series of treaties voted through the Commons, anti-integration campaigners have kept up relentless pressure for a fresh vote.
When Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979, she famously demanded a rebate on the UK’s contributions to the EU budget, which she secured five years later. But it was Labour that called for our withdrawal from the EEC in its doomed 1983 Election manifesto.
In 1987, despite her instinctive Euroscepticism, Thatcher signed the Single European Act: its creation of an internal market and deepening of integration was the biggest loss of British sovereignty since Heath signed the Treaty of Rome.
In 1992, John Major triggered turmoil in the Tory Party by signing the Maastricht Treaty, which created the European Union and laid the ground for a single currency. Major secured a British opt-out from the euro, and promised we would not join the currency without a direct mandate from voters.
A hard core of 22 rebels refused to support Major in a series of Commons votes at a time when his majority was just 18. The knife-edge votes came close to bringing down the Major administration, but at no stage was a referendum voted on in the Commons.
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Forget the conference smiles. The Tories are deeply split