LREM Eric Littlehales, of Oswestry, Salop, ponders arguments for and against in the forthcoming National Referendum on the Common Market during a courtesy visit by HMS Fearless to Stockholm, 1975.
LREM Eric Littlehales, of Oswestry, Salop, ponders arguments for and against in the forthcoming National Referendum on the Common Market during a courtesy visit by HMS Fearless to Stockholm, 1975.PA Archive
LREM Eric Littlehales, of Oswestry, Salop, ponders arguments for and against in the forthcoming National Referendum on the Common Market during a courtesy visit by HMS Fearless to Stockholm, 1975.
Demonstration during the meeting of French President Pompidou and British Prime Minister Edward Heath at Chequers, 1972.
Pro-Common Market Youth Rally at Trafalgar Square,London, UK, 1975.
Beverley Pilkington, 22 year old model from Essex, wearing Pro Europe white tee shirt with the slogan, Europe or bust? May 19, 1975.
A woman expresses the common fear that Britain will lose her greatness once she joins EEC, 1973.
Margaret Thatcher, sporting a sweater bearing the flags of European nations, in Parliament Square during her 'Yes to Europe' campaign, 1975.
English Conservative politician, (John) Enoch Powell with his wife as he signs copies of his book 'Common Market - The Case Against' during the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton, Oct. 13, 1971
Mr Edward Heath goes aboard the Europe boat on Birmingham's canal, as part of Britain in Europe campaign,1975.
Social Services secretary, Mrs Barbara Castle, left, her seven year old great-niece Rachel Hilton and Mrs Joan Marten, wife of Neil Martin, Chairman of the anti-Common Marketeers (unseen) display goods they brought in London and Brussels with their retrospective prices for comparison during a press conference at the Waldorf Hotel in London, England , May 29, 1975.
Counting of the ballot following the referendum, June 6, 1975.
Vote Counting
Ballot boxes are seen in the background as the count for the European Referendum gets underway, June 6, 1975.
Mrs Anna Williams aged 102, personally delivers her Yes Vote to Swansea's referendum returning officer, Referendum Day, June 5, 1975.
United Kingdom / Ireland
A picture of the schedule to the Referendum Act, which lays down the form of words to be used on the ballot paper. 1975.
Mrs Gertrude Shilling wearing a Common Market themed hat at the Royal Ascot racecourse, 1973.
LREM Eric Littlehales, of Oswestry, Salop, ponders arguments for and against in the forthcoming National Referendum on t
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A Look Back at the Last Time Great Britain Had to Vote About Europe

The last time the people of Great Britain were called to the polls to voice their views on their relationship with Europe, a landslide majority chose to stick together with the continent. Yet, the public debate was as polarized as it's been this time around. as Britons head to the polls to determine whether they will leave the European Union.

For anthropologist Edmund Leach, for example, the anti-Europeans of the time were misty-minded isolationists who showed "the same degree of contact with rational probability as a New Guinea cargo cult," as TIME reported in June of 1975. Meanwhile, in the same story, playwright John Osborne called joining with Europe "the last desperate dream of dull, dim tradesmen without vision, imagination or self-respect, feeling for life or history."

A few days later, 17,378,581 people voted to embrace Europe's Common Market, the precursor to the European Union.

As the fate of the European Union is once again in the balance, we take a look back at the contentious campaign of the early 1970s when Great Britain seemed as divided about its future as it is today.

Michelle Molloy, who edited this photo essay, is a senior international photo editor at TIME.

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