Market entry is ‘urgent’
Mrs Thatcher criticises the isolationists
Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, MP for Finchley, in a vigorous appeal for approval of the Government's Common Market plans, told 170 constituents that “our traditional markets are failing.”
She said Australia, Canada and the new Commonwealth were forming close links with countries near them—and Britain must look urgently elsewhere for trade.
Mrs Thatcher, Minister for Education, was holding a Common Market question-and-answer session with constituents at the Conservative Hall, Ballards Lane, North Finchley, on Saturday.
She told her audience: “We have a tendency to be isolationist, and yet we expect to be listened to in the world.”
Mrs Thatcher said that Europe wanted Britain in the Community and we were now “knocking on an open door” with terms we can accept. The climate of European opinion had changed.
Europe had been the centre of the ideas, ideals and scientific invention of the civilised world—but the world had lived through a period when divisions in Europe had caused wars and catastrophes.
She added: “The great visionary of politics, Winston Churchill, had the idea to draw Europe together with a unity of voice and action.
“This idea was taken up by many people to see if we could get a collective European voice.”
Mrs Thatcher said Australia, Canada and the new Commonwealth had to protect their own trade and look to their own geographic areas.
Although Britain was not able to get into Europe at first, Europe “got on without us.”
“We should have access to Europe and its expanding markets,” she said, “We have a good deal to bring to the Economic Community. I would rather we were there to affect the decisions.”
Mrs Thatcher, answering a question on voting within the Community said: “We have been allowed full status where our vital national interests are involved.”
On sovereignty, she said: “France is no less French or Holland less Dutch for joining.” “There are many monarchies in the group.”
Britain would have to change a few laws, a few prices would rise “and people will be keener to start learning new languages.” She was optimistic about trade prospects.
When a questioner suggested that the British taxpayer would be exploited by Europeans coming to Britain, Mrs Thatcher replied: “The British taxpayer will not have to fork out for everyone else.”
She said the British Health Service was not so superior to those of Europe that everybody would want to take advantage of it. Germany had the best retirement pensions and France had the best family allowances.
Mrs Thatcher added: “The ideal thing for anybody would be to go to France and have your children, let them grow up here and then move to Germany to retire.”
A chiropodist in the audience asked if the free movement of labour from Europe might lead to poor standards in medicine in this country.
He feared that employers might take on lower-quality and lower-paid labour whose qualifications were below standard, and sought a pledge that standards would be maintained.
Mrs Thatcher said: “There could be a rush the other way for jobs. Many unskilled workers are paid more in Europe than here.” She said she would continue to look closely at all qualifications.
In reply to another question, she said: “Many of our own people will not take up certain jobs. And a large number of people from Europe already work in our hotel industry.”
She believed there would not be a big movement of labour.
A pensioner asked how old people, and those on fixed incomes, would fare “if prices rise when we join the Common Market.” Mrs Thatcher said they would get adjustments of social benefits and supplementary benefits.
Alderman Leslie Snelling said that time was running out for Britain. As a trading country we had to look somewhere else for trade—and the vast markets of Europe gave an opportunity. Britain could challenge “the almighty, interfering American dollar” on one hand, and Russia on the other.
Councillor Frank Gibson said he was “a reluctant pro-marketeer,” but was willing to trust the Cabinet and the decision to go into Europe.
He criticised the Labour Party leadership for their recent actions over the Common Market and called Mr Harold Wilson “the greatest political con man in history.”
Mrs Thatcher added—that all the Labour politicians in charge of the earlier negotiations had said they would have accepted the terms now offered.
A constituent asked Mrs Thatcher: “Would another Labour government pull us out of Europe once we went in?”
Mrs Thatcher said: “No, it would split the Labour Party from top to bottom if they did.” [end p41]
Why we must go into Europe—Mrs. Thatcher
ENTRY WILL MAKE TRADE EASIER
TORY HALL, North Finchley, was packed on Saturday morning when Finchley and Friern Barnet M.P., Mrs Margaret Thatcher, came to answer questions on the Common Market. Her visit was one of a series being undertaken by M.P.s in their constituencies.
After outlining the background to Britain's negotiations to enter the Common Market, Mrs Thatcher answered more than a dozen questions from the 120-strong audience which came to hear her speak. The event was organised by the Finchley Conservative Party.
Churchill 's vision of a European alliance to prevent further wars, and the need for expanding trade markets, were the background reasons for our application, said Mrs. Thatcher: “We found we weren't able to get into Europe, but Europe got on without us.
“It is important that we have access to these expanding markets, and not be on the outside looking in.
“Now the climate of opinion has changed—before we were knocking on a closed door, now we are knocking on an open door. We have a very great deal to contribute to the development of Europe—our experience, our calm, will add a great deal.”
After this introduction Mrs. Thatcher answered some of the main points worrying people, such as the effect on our jobs, our laws, social services and our sovereignty. “There is no difficulty in maintaining a monarch within the E.E.C.,” she said.
Regarding the social services, she rejected the notion that ours were the best in Europe—each country excelled at one aspect, and she added lightheartedly: “Really you should go to France to have your children—where the family allowances are high; to Britain while they are growing up and need medical care; and then to Germany to retire, for the pensions!”
Commenting on the movement of labour, she said: “We are not such a magnet as you might think.” She felt that British workers might well move abroad, but not the other way round: “I don't believe the British taxpayer will have to fork out for everyone else,” she said, in answer to a comment about “worthless Europeans” taking advantage of our services.
Entry into the community would make trade easier, she said: “The only thing that stops us getting trade in any country is the tariff barrier we have to clamber over.”
Little was said about the rise in prices, but Mrs. Thatcher said that these would be taken into account when reviewing pensions.
After the morning session, Mrs. Thatcher spent the afternoon in private interviews with constituents, although only three people took the opportunity to talk to her about the Common Market.