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 IRN (Milan European Council)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Radio Interview
Venue: Sforzesco Castle, Milan
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Antonia Higgs, IRN
Editorial comments: The Press Conference began at 2130; interviews must have followed. MT left for the airport at 2230.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 861
Themes: Foreign policy (Middle East), European Union (general), Economic, monetary & political union, European Union Single Market, Science & technology, Transport, Terrorism, British relations with Italy

Antonia Higgs, IRN

Prime Minister, you came here looking for decisions on the way forward for the Community. Very little seems to have been decided at all. Are you very disappointed?

Prime Minister

Disappointed, because we are practical. We had specific proposals. The way was clear. We had a good deal of agreement, but there was a group here that wanted to put things off, procrastinate, send them to another conference. I always take the view that if we cannot agree, why should another conference agree, but other people nevertheless just did not want to meet and to decide today.

Antonia Higgs, IRN

Now when the intergovernmental conference does get underway do you think that it can achieve anything there?

Prime Minister

Well you know, I take the view that here we are, ten countries round the table, we are a governmental conference—if we cannot reach agreement, how in the world can another one of the same ten governments? It is ridiculous. [end p1]

Antonia Higgs, IRN

Why do you think there was such a failure to reach agreement?

Prime Minister

I do not know. You know, we are pretty practical in Britain. We have had many difficulties with the Community; we have solved those, so we were really rather anxious to go forward with making Europe a much more important, significant unit than it is at the moment, because if we did then we could have as big a market, be as big technologically, as United States and Japan and it would all be jobs for our people. That is the view which I take. That view did not prevail. I am sad, but it did not.

Antonia Higgs, IRN

Would you go as far as to say that on the question of the future of Europe this has been a waste of time?

Prime Minister

Not a waste of time, because we did three things. First, you know, there is the completion of what is called the “internal market” . We are particularly good at services, at insurance. We are particularly good at lorry things, at air, at sea, at sea travel. All of those things we have not got a common market in. There are quotas for lorries. We allow some ships into our ports to pick up our trade; they do not allow us into theirs. We believe in air travel and cheap fares. They do not. All of these things, we wanted a proper common market and in fact we have had a whole document from the Commission trying to get what is called the completion of a proper full internal common market.

Now I lay down specific priorities as to the way in which [end p2] that work should be tackled and they have accepted those. And then secondly, we also talked about technology. So many jobs are in new technology today, and we have got to be right up front, and we have got to be able to compete with the best America and the best in Japan and we made steps towards that today. So those things are good.

And the third thing is: Europe has got to cooperate. When you think of European history and you think of how little Europe together is doing now, you realise we have got to cooperate when it comes to political decisions, for example in the United Nations and elsewhere. And our text is one of the foremost which is being considered for a new binding agreement. So those things we have gone ahead on.

Antonia Higgs, IRN

Now, while the conference has been on, the Beirut hostage crisis has been continuing. Have you and the other leaders been able to keep up to date with the situation there?

Prime Minister

Up to date! Messages have come in. One moment a message came in about lunchtime, they have left Beirut, they are on their way to Damascus, they are going to lunch with President Assad or have tea with him and we all cheered, you know. It was such a relief. And then a message came in later: No, they are still at Beirut, not all of them have been released and they must stay together. So really, while we have been talking about these things—and last night we had a talk about how to combat terrorism and hijacking and to increase security at airports—half our minds have been on what is happening there, because there [end p3] is a real human problem right now. We know what President Reagan is feeling. We know what the families are feeling. We know the strenuous diplomatic efforts that are going on, because we are part of them, and we have just been waiting for news that they have been released. Indeed, if I might put it this way: the Road to Damascus has taken on a very new meaning for us today!

Antonia Higgs, IRN

And on the larger subject of terrorism, your talks last night, did you reach any positive decisions?

Prime Minister

Nothing different from what we had already agreed. We have got to do everything—everything—to increase airport security, security on aircraft, security for our national airlines flying to other airports. We have got to have special regard to anything, Middle Eastern Airlines, which comes through Beirut, where else it is going, what we are going to do about it, and of course, we do not fly to Beirut at the moment and I hope will not do so for some time!