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1975, 2016 & Beyond: Britain, Europe & Lessons to Learn from Harold Wilson

In 1975, Harold Wilson headed a divided party and a country facing multiple crises. In this context, the question of Europe came to the fore. Wilson responded by holding a referendum, which delivered a resounding victory for Remain, and Wilson came closest to resolving the European question than any British Prime Minister since the war.

In 2016, David Cameron too found himself at the head of a divided party and a country wracked by doubt and social division. Again, the question of Europe came to the fore, and again, the Prime Minister responded by holding a referendum. This time, however, a marginal victory for Leave plunged Britain into a political crisis, deepened the country's divisions, and has left Britain's relationship with the rest of the world more uncertain than ever.

About the speaker

Rachel Reeves was elected Member of Parliament for Leeds West in May 2010. Previously, she worked as an economist at the Bank of England, the British Embassy in Washington DC and latterly at Halifax Bank of Scotland. Between 2010-2015, Reeves served on the opposition frontbench as Shadow Pensions Minister, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Following the 2015 general election, Reeves joined the Treasury Select Committee and in July 2020 was elected Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee. She is currently serving as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Rachel Reeves, member of Parliament