When did Britain join the EU?

Britain has been a part of the EU for more than 40 years – but for how much longer?

LEAVING’S never easy – and that’s certainly the case for Britain trying to extract itself from the EU.

But when did the UK join the megastate in the first place? Here’s what we know about when the volatile affair with Europe began.

When did Britain join the EU?

Tory PM Edward Heath took the UK into the European Economic Area in January 1973.

The move came after President de Gaulle of France twice blocked UK membership during the 1960s.

De Gaulle had feared British membership would weaken the French voice within Europe, and that the US-UK relationship would strengthen America’s influence.

Britain found a way in after de Gaulle resigned in 1969.

In 1975, a referendum was held on whether the UK should stay in the EEC under different terms of entry.

The public voted Yes by 67.2 to 32.8 per cent to stay in Europe.

In those days the entity was primarily an economic union. It wasn’t until 1992 that the European Union was officially formed, with Britain’s membership coming into force in November 1993.

Who were the original members?

Britain joined the EEC in 1973, the same year as Denmark and Ireland.

The original members of what came to be known as the European Communities were the Inner Six:Belgium,France,Italy,Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany.

Over the next four-and-a-half decades, the membership swelled to 28 member states.

There are now 28 members of the EU, all who have to fulfil strict criteria

How do nations join?

To become part of the union, a country has to meet the Copenhagen criteria – defined at the 1993 meeting of the European Council which took place in the Danish capital.

There are three directives they have to prove before the European Council will open negotiations. These are:

  • Political: stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities;
  • Economic: existence of a functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union;
  • Acceptance of the Community acquis: ability to take on the obligations of membership, including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.

No member state has yet left the EU, though Greenland (an autonomous province of Denmark) withdrew in 1985.

Following the 2016 Referendum, the UK Parliament triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, a process required for a member to leave the Union.

The UK is now set to leave Europe by March 29, 2019 – if Parliament and the EU are able to agree on a divorce deal.

Which members recently joined the EU?

Of the bloc’s 28 member countries, Croatia was the last one to join, back in 2013. It was preceded by Bulgaria and Romania in 2007.

In 2004, Slovenia, Slovakia, Poland, Malta, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Estonia, Czechia and Cyprus were admitted.