Britain’s relations with the EU until membership in 1973 can be related to the character of that organization (supranational and with lurking federal ideas) and to key developments in British domestic and foreign policy. The two went hand-in-hand as Britain stood aside from the first steps taken towards European integration in the 1950s, then re-evaluated its role and sought membership of the EC in the 1960s and 1970s. The chapter develops the ‘Britain in Europe’ theme by providing an overview of Britain’s relationships with the EC from the postwar leader of a landslide Labour government, Clement Attlee, until accession under Prime Minister Edward Heath in 1973. The chapter is particularly concerned with the factors that shaped British government attitudes towards supranational integration, the capacity to attain UK European policy objectives, and the ways in which these preferences and objectives changed over time between the late 1940s and the early 1970s. In the 1950s, the development of European integration is assessed alongside Britain’s long-standing preferences for free trade and the maintenance of economic relations with the Commonwealth and USA, an aversion to supranationalism, and a desire to recover great power status.
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