The British – and this county in particular – held out open arms to Europe in the 1975 ‘In or Out’ referendum.
The UK had been part of what was known then as the European Economic Community, or Common Market, since 1973.
Two years later, however, the people were given the chance to vote whether or not Britain remained in the EEC in the country’s first nationwide referendum.
Lincolnshire voted overwhelmingly to stay in, with two-thirds of votes in favour – a massive 180,603 against 61,011 ‘no’ votes. The 74.7 per cent of votes in favour was the fourth highest ‘yes’ percentage in the country.
Now, 41 years on, we are being asked to take one of the biggest decisions of our lifetime, and one that will potentially affect the future wealth and wellbeing of the nation
The people of South Holland, along with the rest of the UK, will be asked to vote in a referendum on June 23 whether or not to remain in the EU.
With that in mind, it is interesting to look back at the issues that were concerning people in this district in the 1970s and to consider whether they are still valid today.
In fact, when these newspapers polled a group of local residents ahead of the 1975 referendum, opinion was very much divided.
However, they were unanimous in believing that the referendum should have been held before Britain went into the Common Market and not when the country was already a member.
Worries about membership included the Get Britain Out group’s view that food would become “unnecessarily expensive”, though the British farmer would not benefit from rising prices.
The group’s vice-chairman Charles Cole said the group gained confidence from the fact that local MP Richard Body had fought elections on an anti-Common Market platform, and had been elected with a substantial majority.
The group was also concerned about Britain’s laws being made by a European Parliament, taxes being levied in Brussels, and ending years of history.
However,the NFU declared itself solidly in favour of remaining in the EC on both farming and overall national grounds, according to the then county chairman of Holland (Lincs) branch Reg Dobbs.
The West Pinchbeck farmer said growers had had two years to study the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the NFU had had close contact with Brussels during that time.
He said CAP was not a fixed set of rules, but had changed radically since Britain’s entry. Referring to criticism over the creation of food surpluses, he said criticism would be greater if the policy had led to unnecessary shortages.