Key events of 1986


1 – Spain and Portugal join the EC

9 – Michael Heseltine resigns as Defence Secretary over the Westland affair

20 – Britain and France announce plans to construct the Channel Tunnel, which they hope to open by the early 1990s

24 – Leon Brittan resigns as Trade and Industry Secretary over the Westland affair

28 – Space shuttle Challenger explodes killing seven


15 – Fifty-eight people arrested at a Wapping dispute demonstration

17 – Single European Act signed with the objective of a single market

19 – The Soviet Union launches the Mir space station

26 – People Power Revolution in the Philippines


18 – Inheritance Tax replaces Capital Transfer Tax

31 – The Greater London Council and the metropolitan county councils of West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Tyne and Wear, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire are abolished


15 – The Government’s Shops Bill 1986 is defeated in the House of Commons on its second reading: the Thatcher Government’s only defeat in the Commons

17 – Hindawi Affair attempted bombing of an El Al flight from London to Tel Aviv

17 – Journalist John McCarthy is kidnapped in Beirut, where three other hostages are found dead

26 – Chernobyl disaster

30 – Rioting erupts overnight in prisons across Britain


8 – Labour make large gains in local council elections

31 – Mexico football World Cup begins


10 – Patrick Joseph Magee found guilty of the Brighton hotel bombing and sentenced to life imprisonment

12 – South African state of emergency

22 – England knocked out of World Cup by Argentina and Maradona’s “Hand of God”

29 – Argentina beat West Germany 3-2 to win World Cup


5-20 – Goodwill Games in Moscow

12 – Rioting breaks out at Portadown in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics

23 – Prince Andrew marries Sarah Ferguson at Westminster Abbey

24-2 August – Commonwealth Games held in Edinburgh

28 – Suzy Lamplugh disappears after a meeting in London


13 – The Eurotunnel Group is formed to operate the Channel Tunnel

19 – The privatisation of the National Bus Company begins


GCSE examination courses replace both GCE ‘O’ Level and CSE courses for 14-year olds

7 – Desmond Tutu becomes first black Anglican bishop in South Africa

7 – General Pinochet survives assassination attempt

8 – Thatcher officially opens the first phase of the Nissan car factory at Sunderland

19 -­ Two people are killed and 100 injured at the Colwich rail crash


11 – Reagan and Gorbachev Reykjavik talks begin

12 – The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visit to China

24 – UK breaks off diplomatic relations with Syria over links to Hindawi Affair

26 – Jeffrey Archer resigns as Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party over allegations concerning prostitutes

29 – Thatcher opens the M25 motorway


3 – Iran-Contra affair made public by Lebanese magazine article

6 – Sumburgh disaster Chinook crash kills 45 oil workers flying from Brent oilfield

18 – Ian Brady and Myra Hindley confess to the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett

21 – The government launches a £20m campaign to warn of the dangers of AIDS


The first case of BSE is diagnosed in British cattle

8 – British Gas shares are floated on the Stock Exchange

29 – Harold Macmillan, Earl of Stockton, dies aged 92 at his home in East Sussex