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Margaret Thatcher Foundation

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EU History

60th Anniversary of the Treaties of Rome

The Treaties of Rome were the founding treaties establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC), which were signed on 25 March 1957 and entered into force on 1 January 1958.

Treaty establishing the European Economic Community (EEC)

Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom)

A history of the EU can be found in the following timeline

EU heads of State or Government were invited to meet in Rome, Italy, on 25 March 2017 for the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties. (Theresa May declined the invitation to attend)

The leaders will look back at the achievements of the last 60 years, reaffirm their unity, their common interests and values, as well as reflect on the current challenges and set the priorities for the next ten years and are expected to issue the Rome Declaration.

Background information and a programme is available at

A joint declaration was signed by the leaders of 27 member states and by representatives of the European Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission.

The declaration outlines a 10 year plan for the future direction of the EU with a pledge to work towards

  • A safe and secure Europe
  • A prosperous and sustainable Europe
  • A social Europe
  • A stronger Europe on the global scene

amongst other things, it includes a commitment to work towards Economic and Monetary union

The full text of the declaration is available at


All pictures are © European Union, 2017

EU Institutions History

The EU – A brief guide

Extracted from

where you can also find a brief history and a glossary of terms used in the EU.

The European Union, which succeeded the European Community, was established by the EU Treaties.

The parties to the treaties are the Member States of the EU.

Under the treaties the Member States confer competences on the EU – such as the power to adopt legislation. The EU can only act within the limits of its competences.

The EU has a number of institutions, such as the European Council, the Council of Ministers, the European Commission and the European Parliament. Acting together or separately, these institutions pass laws (such as regulations, directives or decisions), which may take effect automatically in the UK’s legal systems or require the UK to pass national legislation to give effect to the EU laws.

The UK may also be affected by the treaties themselves, which may restrict what the UK can do, for example, restricting the UK’s power to limit imports from other Member States.

The Court of Justice of the European Union interprets the treaties and the laws which the EU passes and decides if Member States have abided by them.

There are two key EU treaties, which have been amended several times.

They are the Treaty on the European Union (‘TEU’, originally the Maastricht Treaty), and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU’, originally called the Treaty of Rome). The treaties are effective in the UK by virtue of the European Communities Act 1972, as amended.

The full text of the Maastricht Treaty can be found on the EU web-site at


The European Economic Community was established in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome, and became the European Community (EC) in 1967. The Treaty of Rome gave the Community a number of tasks including establishing a common market and progressively approximating the economic policies of the Member States. The United Kingdom joined the Community in 1973, and confirmed that decision in a UK-wide referendum in 1975.

In 1986, the Single European Act made further provision for the establishment of the common market, now referred to as the ‘internal market’, and defined as an area without internal frontiers, in which the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is ensured. The Single Market Act also added a number of new policy areas to the Community’s competence, including, for example, a specific environmental competence. The Maastricht Treaty followed in 1993. This treaty established the European Union, which had a three pillar structure, with the European Community being the first pillar, the common foreign and security policy the second pillar and justice and home affairs (covering immigration and asylum, civil judicial cooperation and police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters) the third pillar. Further changes were made by the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) and the Treaty of Nice (2000), including to the competences of the Union.

The EU entered a period of expansion, reaching 28 Member States by 2013. This prompted calls for a new Treaty. After long discussion, the Lisbon treaty was signed in 2007. This treaty renamed and amended the original treaties, collapsed the three pillar system into a single European Union, and incorporated the Charter of Fundamental Rights into the EU Treaties.



This section records interesting historical items related to the UK membership of the European Economic Community, Common Market and the European Union


The 1975 Common Market Referendum

The Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath took the UK into the European Economic Community (EEC) in January 1973 after membership had been blocked on 2 previous occasions (vetoed in 1961 and 1969 by Charles de Gaulle). This brought the total number of members to 9 with Ireland and Denmark joining at the same time.

In 1975, the Labour prime Minister, Harold Wilson called a referendum for the public to decide whether the UK should remain as members of the EEC.

The question on the ballot paper was

“Do you think the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community (the Common Market)?”

The referendum was held on 5 June 1975.

There was a turnout of 64.03% from a registered electorate of 40,456,877.

67.2% voted in favour of staying in the EEC and 32.8% voted against.

More information can be found at the House of Commons Library in a briefing paper prepared in July 2015 The 1974-75 UK Renegotiation of EEC Membership and Referendum.

Referendum Campaign

The Keep Britain in Europe campaign had the support of all the major political parties although Government ministers were allowed the freedom to differ from the party line and follow their consciences.

3 pamphlets were distributed to households in the UK one from the Government (in favour of remaining), one from the Yes campaign (in favour of remaining) and 1 from the No campaign (in favour of leaving).

Copies of the text used in these documents can be found at:

Government recommendation in Britain’s New Deal in Europe

Britain in Europe campaign Referendum on the European Community (Common Market) Why you should vote YES

No campaign Referendum on the European Community (Common Market) Why you should vote NO.

The Conservative party also produced a separate guide calling for the UK to remain in the EEC.

Yes to Europe: The Conservative Guide for the 1975 Referendum Campaign

Copies of the actual original pamphlets are reproduced at The 1975 Common Market Referendum Campaign Documents