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UK-EU Relations

This fact was correct when it was updated on 21 Sep 2020

Why did the United Kingdom not join the European Union when it started?

The UK was invited to take part in talks that led to the founding treaties of the EU: the Treaty of Paris (1951), which established the European Coal and Steel Community; and the Treaty of Rome (1957), which established the European Economic Community (EEC).

The British government did not engage in a significant way with these talks and signed neither treaty at the time. It disliked many of the supranational elements in the treaties, it was worried about damaging links with Commonwealth countries and it wished to pursue a ‘one-world economic system’ policy in which sterling was a central currency.

The UK’s non-participation meant that when it did join the EEC in 1973 it had to accept many elements controversial among some British voters, which were established before it joined: its supranationalism, the Common Agricultural Policy and the budget.

Find out more – read our explainer on the history of the UK’s EU membership.


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