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 into 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 Edward Heath became Prime Minister following his against-the-odds general election victory. 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. These connections were vital in supporting Edward Heath’s crucial breakthrough negotiations with French President Georges Pompidou.
The European Forum’s first Annual General Meeting, held shortly after the 1970 general election victory, already counted fourteen MPs amongst those present. As membership negotiations with the EEC got fully underway, 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. Having an organised campaigning group helped to secure Party support and Parliamentary approval of British membership of the EEC – first achieved on 1st January 1973.