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When The UK Joined The European Union

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Since the U.K.'s Brexit vote, everyone is trying to figure out the future of the European Union. We're going to take a look now into the past, to the moment the U.K. first joined the forerunner of the EU.

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SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: From National Public Radio in Washington, I'm Susan Stamberg with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This story was from New Year's Day 1973.

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STAMBERG: That fanfare marked the start of this new year in Great Britain, and it marked the end of 900 years of independent economic power for Britain. With the ringing in of the new year, Britain became a member of the European Common Market.

SIEGEL: The Common Market - or the European Economic Community - would become today's European Union.

SHAPIRO: Even then, public opinion was divided on the U.K. joining. NPR sent a reporter to a supermarket in London to get reaction.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What about the prospect of becoming a European?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: The British people won't change - not in the long run.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What would it mean to you?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: I think the children coming up now - the six, seven, eight-year-olds - I think they will benefit by going into the Common Market.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What about all this fanfare for Europe?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: We could have done without that.

SHAPIRO: Two years later on June 6, 1975, the U.K. held a vote on whether to stay.

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MIKE WATERS, BYLINE: For the first time in British history, a referendum was held to determine the feelings of the people.

SIEGEL: The vote was a landslide.

WATERS: They voted overwhelmingly to stay in.

SHAPIRO: Remain won that day - 67 to 33 percent. Newspaper reporter Tom Ottenad spoke about the vote with NPR's Mike Waters.

WATERS: England will stay in. What have they avoided by doing so?

TOM OTTENAD: There almost certainly would have been a constitutional crisis in Britain almost immediately. It would have worsened the economic condition in Britain. And it might even have jeopardized Britain's part in the Western defense alliance in the long run.

SIEGEL: That was from ALL THINGS CONSIDERED on June 7, 1975, the day after the U.K. voted to stick with Europe.

SHAPIRO: A vote that lasted for, oh, 41 years. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.