HeathToday marks the fortieth anniversary of the United Kingdom’s accession to the European Union. I realise that this means that for fifteen years of my life I was not a citizen of the European Union. What do I remember of my pre-accession life? New Zealand lamb, butter, cheddar and apples. Australian merino wool. The first plastic Hong Kong toys. Er… not much more, frankly. I of course remember pounds, shillings and pence and the torture of twelve times tables, but decimilisation had already happened in 1971 (I was strongly reminded of the mechanics of the process, and the debates about shopkeepers’ allegedly inflationary pricing tactics, when euro notes and coins were introduced). By the time I was taking an interest in politics, Harold Wilson had promised a referendum (1974) and ‘Sunny Jim’ Callaghan was renegotiating the terms of entry. When I first came to Brussels in the early 1980s (less than a decade after accession, I realise) there were still a lot of British, Irish and Danish people around who had been in the negotiating teams or among the first officials of their nationalities to work in the institutions. I met a lot of them on the squash courts and I always listened attentively to their reminiscences. Perhaps the most poignant concerned their lost Norwegian friends, for on 22 January 1972 four countries signed accession treaties to the then European Communities: Denmark, Ireland, Norway and the United Kingdom. On 23 April 1972 France held a referendum on whether those four countries should be allowed in. (Often forgotten, the referendum result was 68.3% in favour.) On 10 May 1972 the Irish people voted in a referendum by 83% in favour of accession. So certain did the accession process seem that on 12 September 1972 the ministers of finance of the six founding member states met together with their counterparts from the four acceding countries and agreed to set up a European Monetary Cooperation Fund as a first step towards economic and monetary union. Then, on 25 September, the Norwegian people voted in a referendum and rejected membership by 53.5%. On 2 October the Danish people held their referendum and opted by 63.3% in favour of accession. On 7 October the Norwegian government announced that it would not be taking the ratification of the accession bill before parliament. On 16 October the United Kingdom parliament ratified the accession act. Those grizzled veterans on the squash courts recounted vividly the disbelief and consternation of their Norwegian friends as they drowned their sorrows in the Victoria Pub on the Rond Point Schuman (long since disappeared) where they had so recently celebrated the successful closing of the accession negotiations. There are probably quite a few lessons in all of that. But let me close by simply pointing out that today may mark the 40th anniversary of the UK’s accession, but it also marks the 40th anniversary of Norway’s absence.