As virtually everyone reading this post will be aware – Britain is currently embroiled in the decision to exit the European Community.
Thinking back – it was on this day, Thursday 17th February 1972 – that the then Prime Minister Edward Heath narrowly won a vote in the House of Commons on whether they should, or should not, ratify a treaty for the United Kingdom to join the European Community.
Two years previously, just prior to the 1970 election, Edward Heath had stated that it would be wrong for any Government to consider joining the European Community to take this step without the ‘full hearted consent of Parliament and people’.
Of course – just because he thought that then it was not necessarily right to do the same thing again – so, on this Thursday in 1972, he ignored his earlier statement and turned the matter into a vote of confidence by pledging to resign and to call new elections saying that “If the House will not agree … my colleagues and I are unanimous that in these circumstances, this Parliament could not sensibly continue.”
By a margin of just eight votes (309–301), the Bill was passed.
Later many challenged the validity of this vote – claiming the decision and the vote was contrary to British law, and that it breached a constitutional convention requiring prior consultation of the people via a general election or a formal referendum. In other words – Heath was right first time round, and wrong the second time.
So, coming forward to Friday 17th February 2017, one wonders what our population in another thirty-five years’ time will be saying. I’ll leave that to my grand-children to resolve! Of course, there is the possibility – or is it a probability – that there will not be any form of union anyway.