Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1985 Jun 29 Sa
Margaret Thatcher

Radio Interview for BBC (Milan European Council)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Radio Interview
Venue: Sforzesco Castle, Milan
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Paul Reynolds, BBC
Editorial comments: The Press Conference began at 2130; interviews must have followed. MT left for the airport at 2230.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1486
Themes: European Union (general), Economic, monetary & political union, European Union Single Market, Foreign policy (Asia), Trade, Terrorism, Transport, Foreign policy (Middle East), Northern Ireland, Law & order, British relations with Italy

Paul Reynolds, BBC

Are you disappointed at the results of the European Council here in Milan?

Prime Minister

Yes, of course I am. You know, after we had got all our own difficulties with the Common Market over, the difficulties with finance, difficulties with own resources, since then we wanted to go forward. Europe, if you think of European history, has been so tremendously important. It has been such a dynamic force. It is not at the moment. Therefore we had ideas as to how we could get together and make it much much more of a unit, much much more important and significant in world affairs. But we are very practical people we British and so we came with very practical proposals. The important thing was to make progress. Others did not take that view. They wanted to put it all off to some great conference I am afraid, which will waste a lot of time and forego the progress we could have made this time.

Paul Reynolds, BBC

But is it not also true that they in fact wanted to make more progress and wanted to go further than the British Government was prepared to accept, certainly on the question of reducing the power of the veto in Europe? [end p1]

Prime Minister

Yes, but you know, if you are really to get on with ten nations or twelve nations in Europe, you have got to be certain that your own really vital national interests are not only considered, but they could hold up an agreement, and I go there as representative of the British Parliament. I go there because I am responsible to the British Parliament and everyone else there was there because they are responsible to their Parliaments. We are not going to stop something just because we do not like it. Otherwise we would never have got anywhere. But if there is something that is vital in our national interest, then the fact is that apart from the rhetoric it does not matter whether you are French, German or British, if there some vital national interest you will say: “We cannot agree!”

And what really makes me cross is that knowing we all react the same way when a national interest is at stake, others somehow tried to forget that and pushed things off onto an intergovernmental conference, whereas I said: “Look! Partners have to agree. We have to understand other people's problems and do not duck it!” And they ducked it!

Question

What is your attitude going to be at this intergovernmental conference? Are you going to resist any amendments to the treaty which some of the other governments are going to propose?

Prime Minister

I do not think there is any need for amendments to the treaty. We have not yet got this treaty working. It is meant to work. There are many many clauses of it which have never been [end p2] brought into operation and I believe we should bring them in and we can work in that way. We shall go to this intergovernmental conference. I do not think we need any treaty amendment. You can only get a treaty amendment by unanimous agreement of all the national parliaments. I think, therefore, the intergovernmental conference will fail.

Question

Where does this leave the European Common Market now, Prime Minister?

Prime Minister

Not as far ahead as it could have been had we faced the practical problems today. That they did not face it was not our fault. We have taken some significant decisions. We have in fact looked at the improvement of what is called the internal market&em;that is a common market in goods and services, insurance, financial services, movement by land, sea and air. We have not got an arrangement about that. We have taken decisions about that. And, of course, we have taken decisions about the technological community as well. And the third thing we have taken decisions about is we are not at all satisfied at the way in which trading relations are going with Japan. Japan is expecting to sell her goods all over the world and not buy anyone else's, and that will not do, and we have instructed M. Delors, the President of the Commission, to be very firm indeed with Yasuhiro Nakasonethe Prime Minister of Japan when he comes to visit M. Delors soon. [end p3]

Paul Reynolds, BBC

Is this all, do you think, a reflection, what has gone on today, of the different views of the European Community that Britain, Denmark and Greece see it as very much the Europe of the national state as you have been explaining; other countries feel the time is ripe to move forward and take some of the risks which would be involved in giving up more national sovereignty?

Prime Minister

No, it is a different of talk. Just look! It is all very well, Germany wants an intergovernmental conference. Germany did not hesitate to use her national interest in the recent discussions on the Common Agricultural Policy. She was against everyone else and she did not hesitate to invoke her national interest. And this is what sticks in my gullet. We are perfectly frank. Yes, I do invoke my national interest. So do they, but they act as if they were above it. They are not! Believe you me, Germany invoked her national interest on the price of wheat. Recently at Dublin, she invoked her national interest on adding sugar to wine&em;a matter as small as that&em;so when it comes to practical things, we do not really disagree. But I cannot stand people who get involved in a terrific amount of grandiose schemes and talk. I am concerned not with talk&em;what you are prepared to do. What do you do?

Paul Reynolds, BBC

Prime Minister, can I change the subject. You looked at the question of terrorism. What has actually been agreed on this? The British delegation was talking about the need for action. Has any action actually been agreed? [end p4]

Prime Minister

We did not have a communique on terrorism. You can imagine, we were sitting there waiting for the latest news to come in about Beirut and it came in completely. You know, when you are there in a conference, you feel isolated from the outside world. You do not get the latest messages and yet you know that people are looking to you for what is going to happen. We know&em;and we discussed last night at length&em;we have to do everything possible to make airports more secure. We cannot say precisely what we are going to do because there are certain obvious things that you never can be specific. We have to see that our airlines fly to airports that are secure. We have to see that we all take certain action on airports which are not secure or on countries that are not prepared either to try or to yield up hijackers, and at the back of our minds all the time today was what was happening to those hostages in Beirut.

Now they still seem to be in Beirut. We know the problems that President Reagan has. We know the problems those families have. We understand that President Assad has been very active in trying to get them released. Believe you me, the road to Damascus has taken on a very real practical meaning for us today, and I just hope it will be all right.

Question

Finally, Prime Minister, on Northern Ireland, the marching season has begun. There has been a lot of trouble already. Does the Government generally favour the re-routing of Loyalist marches away from the Nationalist areas? [end p5]

Prime Minister

Now as you know, that is a matter for the police and Sir John Hermonthe Chief Constable has to decide whether they re-route. We know we are up against the marching season. It is significant to the Nationalists in Northern Ireland and to the majority who are the Unionists. We just hope that there will be no terrible loss of life or injury. Whether those marches are re-routed and where, the Chief Constable must decide and upon the latest information he has, but you are right, it is a difficult period and we feel deeply about it, and of course, we just await the latest news and hope that freedom of expression will be honoured without abusing it.

Question

Did you make any progress with Dr. FitzGerald this morning?

Prime Minister

We spoke. Obviously terrorism is very much in our minds. As you know, we had the Air India flight which went down in the sea not far off the west cost of the Republic of Ireland and in which we helped to try to look for survivors. We also discussed the situation as to how we can take it forward. We are always looking at that, both Garrett FitzGerald and myself. What can we do to try to make certain that we have stability in Northern Ireland with regard to both communities, the Republic community, the Nationalist community, and the majority of the Loyalist and Unionist community? Yes we do discuss that and we discussed it for quite a long time, but our objective is the same: it is that democracy and human rights shall prevail and they shall not be abused by terrorists and terrorists are as much the enemy of the Republic as they are of the United Kingdom.