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1983 Mar 22 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

Radio Interview for IRN (Brussels European Council)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Radio Interview
Venue: Charlemagne Building, Brussels
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: It is not clear precisely when post-Council interviews took place.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1054
Themes: European Union (general), European Union Budget, Foreign policy (Middle East), Northern Ireland

Interviewer

Prime Minister how did you see Britain's short term Common Market budget problem?

PM

I saw it, until today, as rather worrying because we are already into March without any understanding or formula for refunds of our enormous contributions this year and therefore I was concerned. It made this particular Summit extremely important and I wanted to get an undertaking from this Summit that we'd have an arrangement about our refunds all worked out by June and that the actual sums required would go into the draft Community Budget which has already been prepared. So it was extremely important to get what we've got. But we've got it now. The figures have to be worked out but you know they know we are very resolute that we really do battle hard and that we have got a good case.

Interviewer

Getting rebates in the past has never been easy. There have been the long wrangles between Common Market leaders, between Common Market Finance Ministers. Are you more confident that the road will be easier this time?

PM

I don't expect things to come easily ever. They each have their own interests and if we had more refunds then they have to take fewer benefits. We, I think, would be very pleased if we took benefits but we don't. But it does mean that they have to make adjustments to their own programmes and we are all suffering from world recession and high unemployment in every European country and therefore they have their problems too. So we don't expect it to be easy but we are partners in the Community and we expect to get an equitable and fair settlement and I am convinced that we shall.

Interviewer

You settled a June deadline for getting Britain 1983 budget rebate. What happens if there isn't agreement by June?

PM

I believe there will be. The actual rebate you know does not come this year. This year we have got the rebates from last year. That's the way it works. In the first three months of the year you get the rebates from last year. But you can imagine [end p1] how worried I was that we had no understanding or formula for getting rebates in respect of this year which actually will come in from January to March next year. I didn't feel we wanted to go through the whole of this year without getting a promise of a specific amount that would come back January to March next year. So we have still got the timing right.

Interviewer

You held a meeting this morning with the Irish Prime Minister Dr FitzGerald. Anglo-Irish relations have been rather strained over the last eighteen months or so, in fact this was the first meeting between yourself and an Irish Prime Minister for that long. Do you see this as the first step in getting better relations between Britain and the Irish Republic?

PM

I think it is the first step towards restoring more normal relations. I think relations have been strained because various statements have been made and words spoken which many, many people find alarming and frightening. Therefore that has had an effect on our relations with Ireland. There were no initiatives of any kind agreed at this meeting. I described the talks as informal and introductory in character. It is in all our interests that we should have reasonably friendly relations with the Republic of Ireland which is the only country with which we have a land border. We met really with a view to restoring better relations. But there are no new initiatives and nothing that is concealed in any way.

Interviewer

You have agreed that the next time Common Market leaders get together you'll hold a similar informal meeting. Is it your eventual goal possibly after a General Election in Britain to try to hold a more formal Anglo/Irish Summit?

PM

We want to hold formal Anglo/Irish Summits in the same way as we hold Anglo/French Summits, Anglo/German Summits, Anglo/Italians Summits and we have meetings with Netherlands, and so on. We had two or three—three and then things got a little more difficult and we haven't had any more. At the moment we are meeting against the background of a European Council which is very convenient for us both and I think certainly as far as next time is concerned that will be the best way to do it. [end p2]

Interviewer

But you do intend to keep meeting?

PM

It would be reasonable in the context of both belonging to the European Council that eventually we hold again the Anglo/Irish Summit. But at the moment we shall meet in the margins of the European Council.

Interviewer

The other important subject which was discussed during this Summit meeting of Common Market leaders was the Middle East. How important a role—albeit an advisory role—do you think the Common Market has to play in trying to get the problem resolved in the Middle East?

PM

I think being the ten nations we are we can always influence things and therefore when we meet together we naturally have to consider what we should say and I think that the conclusions that we have drafted will help towards getting a settlement and I hope they'll speed up the urgency of it and make it apparent that it is urgent, that there is an opportunity now and that opportunity must not be missed. You know at the moment there are enormous problems in the Lebanon and getting troops withdrawn but there is also solving the fundamental Palestinian problem. That must not be overlooked in the urgencies of the Lebanon.

Interviewer

So what would the Ten like to see in the short term?

PM

What we would really like to see is negotiations taking place on the fundamental Palestinian problem. There are two sets of proposals on the table, President Reagan 's and those from the Arab Fez Summit. We believe that work can go forward on both of those. We believe it would help enormously if Israel agreed that she would not build any extra settlements on the West Bank nor enlarge her existing settlements. Also if the Palestinian people were to make it clear that they would negotiate with Jordan, that too would help. Everyone I think is now agreed that this immensely difficult problem must be solved by peaceful means. When we had the Arab Delegation to see me at Number Ten Downing Street last week they made that very clear indeed, and that too I think is a step forward.