History

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.

 

Our past Presidents are as follows:-

Rt Hon Sir Edward Heath KG MBE MP, 1970-1992

Sir Christopher Prout QC MEP, 1992-1995

Lord Howe of Aberavon, 1995-1998

Lord Hurd of Westwell CH CBE, 1998-2001

Rt Hon Lord Heseltine CH, 2001-2004

Rt Hon Lord Brittan of Spennithorne QC, 2004-2009

Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke CH QC MP, 2009-

 

Our previous Chairmen are as follows (including when the CGE was called the European Forum between 1967 and 1970):-

David Baker, 1967-1970

Col Sir Tufton Beamish MC DL MP, 1970-1973

Sir Gilbert Longden MBE MP, 1973-1976

James Spicer MP, 1976-1979

David Hunt MBE, 1981-1982

Beryl Goldsmith, 1982-1985

Ian Taylor MBE, 1985-1988

Gyde Horrocks, 1988

John Butterfill MP, 1988-1991

Robert Walter, 1991-1994

Edwina Currie MP, 1994-1997

Rt Hon John Gummer MP, 1997-2000

Rt Hon Lord Brittan of Spennithorne QC, 2000-2003

Rt Hon David Curry MP, 2003-2006

Quentin Davies MP, 2006-2007

Ian Taylor MBE MP, 2007-2011

John Bowis, 2011-2014

Neil Carmichael MP, 2014-2017

The Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP, 2017-