Former British Prime Minister from 1970-1974, who took Britain into the EU, died yesterday.

From The Times -

July 18, 2005

Sir Edward Heath dies at age 89

By David Charter, Chief Political Correspondent

The man who led Britain into the European Common Market

The first Conservative Party leader to be elected by his MPs

THE QUEEN, Tony Blair and Michael Howard have led a chorus of tributes to Sir Edward Heath, the former Conservative Prime Minister, who died last night at his home in Salisbury.

Sir Edward, who celebrated his 89th birthday with a party last week, died peacefully at 7.30pm. He suffered a pulmonary embolism while on holiday in Austria two years ago and never fully recovered, becoming considerably weaker in recent days.

Mr Blair said that Sir Edward would be remembered as a political leader of great stature and significance and Mr Howard described him as “one of the political giants of the second half of the 20th century”.

The Queen was saddened by his death and Baroness Thatcher, who replaced him as party leader in 1975, the first to be elected by the party’s MPs, in a leadership challenge, said: “We are all in his debt.”

Sir Edward served as an MP for just over half a century and retired from the Commons at the 2001 general election after becoming Father of the House, the longest-serving MP. He was knighted in 1992 but refused to move to the Lords.

His most significant achievement was in succeeding in taking Britain into Europe, signing the Treaty of Accession in 1971 and having his move endorsed under Labour in the 1975 referendum.

Sir Edward, a bachelor, was first elected to the Commons in February 1950. He became party leader in 1964 and Prime Minister in 1970. His time in Downing Street was also marked by a confrontational approach to pay and the unions that resulted in numerous strikes. With the country on a three-day week and rubbish piling up in the streets the miners threatened to bring his Government down.

In 1974 Sir Edward called an election asking, “Who governs Britain?” and did not get the answer he had hoped for. By February 1975 he had been replaced as leader by Margaret Thatcher.

A yachting enthusiast, he captained Britain’s winning 1971 Admiral’s Cup team while Prime Minister, probably his greatest non-political achievement.

Sir Edward became renowned for his acerbic wit, never missing an opportunity to attack, in particular, Lady Thatcher. After she took his place as leader, he said: “They have made a grave mistake choosing that woman.”

Sir Edward’s funeral will take place on July 28 at Salisbury Cathedral.