‘Au Revoir De Gaulle, Hello EC!’
Our organisation was founded in May 1969 as the European Forum, with David Baker as the founding chair. The previous month had seen the resignation from the French presidency of Charles De Gaulle, who had been the major opponent of UK entry in to the European Community, and the European Forum was launched by Conservative MPs who favoured British membership.
Negotiations for accession began in June 1970, shortly after a general election victory for the Conservative Party of Edward Heath. The European Forum did much to bring together Conservatives and members of like-minded parties in France, in order to increase mutual understanding and pave the way for British membership of the Community.
The European Forum’s first Annual General Meeting, held shortly after the 1970 general election victory, already counted fourteen MPs amongst those present. As negotiations with the EC got fully under way, the forum changed its name to the more self-explanatory title of the Conservative Group for Europe (CGE). Around the same time, David Baker stood down as Chair in favour of Tufton Beamish MP, and in all there were ten MPs among the group’s committee and officers, with many more among the membership.
Next instalment; CEG in the ‘Referendum Years’, coming soon!