Nicholls, Robert (2014) The British political elite and the issue of Europe 1959 to 1984. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The purpose of this thesis is to examine the debate over Britain’s application for membership of the European Community. It explains the significant impact which short-term political calculations played in the stances adopted by individual members of the political elite. This political expediency was a major reason for the inadequacies of the debate on membership.
Central to the research is a set of individual trajectories displaying the positions adopted by parliamentarians and political parties from 1959-1984 during which time Britain’s very membership of the European Community was at stake. The trajectories include a representative sample of Conservative and Labour MPs compiled using interviews, voting records, speeches and other evidence.
While the aim of the thesis is to analyse whether members of the elite held views determined by concerns other than the substantive issue itself, the thesis also advances the argument that many failed to consider the long-term implications of Britain’s membership. The lack of a comprehensive debate of sufficient quality contributed substantially to later problems with Britain’s relationship with Europe.
The chronological chapters analyse significant events at particular stages in the evolution of Britain’s relationship with Europe. The 1975 referendum on Common Market membership for example, is a spectacularly significant milestone – not only for Britain and Europe, but also in respect of the positions taken by Britain’s political elite, whose views were often shaped or changed as a consequence of the political machinations surrounding the issue. Analysis of this and other events including general elections and leadership changes, provide a greater understanding of why members of the political elite subordinated the issue of Britain’s future in Europe to short-term, pragmatic, party management or career considerations.


Download (1MB) | Preview


Downloads per month over past year

Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email