Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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1987 Jul 29 We
Margaret Thatcher

Speech at ratification of Channel Tunnel Treaty

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Speech
Venue: Elysee Palace, Paris
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: Embargoed until 1200 BST. A section of the text has been checked against BBC Radio News Report 1300 29 July 1987 (see editorial notes in text).
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 719
Themes: European Union Single Market, Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Transport

François MitterrandMr President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

May I first thank you for your generous hospitality today, in holding this ceremony in Paris. May I also express our sympathy over the personal misfortune which has recently struck members of your family, together with the hopes of all of us that they will [end p1] make a speedy recovery.

Mr President, since we met in the ancient Chapter House of Canterbury Cathedral nearly eighteen months ago, everyone assembled in this room has been busy—planning, negotiating, debating, legislating. [end p2]

This ceremony where we exchange instruments of ratification of the Channel Tunnel Treaty completes the work of our two governments in creating the framework for this most exciting project to go forward. We can congratulate our Members of Parliament on both sides of the Channel for their detailed, painstaking and successful work. They have ensured that the Tunnel project [end p3] has behind it the full authority of our respective Parliaments—and therefore of our peoples.

But it is not just the completion of our parliamentary procedures that we celebrate today.

We are also now able to announce our joint intention to establish high speed train [end p4] services which will operate between Paris and London from the date of the opening of the Tunnel. I believe that this will be a major step forward for exporters, for business travellers and for tourists. It will also be a vital step towards the development of a Europe-wide network of high speed trains. And no-one would have been more thrilled [end p5] than Queen Victoria, who always saw a channel tunnel as offering salvation from her dread of sea-sickness.

We also thank today Monsieur André Bernard, Mr Alistair Morton and all their colleagues in Eurotunnel. Their achievement over the last few months has been remarkable. They have transformed a group of companies [end p6] formed to promote this project into a single organisation. It is Eurotunnel which will commission the design and construction of the greatest civil engineering project in Europe. And indeed the first steps have already been taken on the French side with the sinking of the Sangati shaft. [end p7]

Their task is no longer to demonstrate on paper that the Tunnel is a technical and political possibility. That has been done. Now they must show that a private sector group can transform plans on paper into a viable commercial venture, and demonstrate their financial case convincingly to the bankers and investors. [end p8] I am confident that they can succeed.

Mr President, you and I have both extolled the virtues of the Channel Tunnel on previous occasions marking milestones in the life of the project: our meetings in Lille and Canterbury. I do not wish to repeat all that was said then. But we have both taken the view that the [end p9] Tunnel will act as a catalyst for enterprise and for jobs. I am glad to say that the first fruits of this are visible in Britain where orders have already been placed for machinery—mostly in the North and in Scotland—worth twenty-three million pounds. [end p10]

It will also be a demonstration of how to go about the practical making of Europe and demolishing its barriers. Indeed we may have an interesting race between the promised completion of the single Common Market in 1992 and the Tunnel a year later. I understand that those responsible for the Tunnel will get bonuses for finishing early. [end p11] I wish the same were true in Europe.

Mr President, the sheer scale of the Channel Tunnel project has daunted many of our predecessors over the last 200 years. Too often in the past pioneering spirits, men of vision and imagination, have been foiled by bureaucracy, narrow minds or plain fear of the unknown. Beginning of section checked against BBC Radio News Report 1300 29 July 1987

I hope this time: [end p12] — that we can rise above the hesitations of the p* —that we can grasp the excitement of this project and the scale of the benefits which it could bring to both our countries and to Europe as a whole. [end p13] —and that we can have the self-confidence in our generation to match the boldness and imagination of our predecessors who in their time demonstrated the ingenuity, the ambition and the enterprise which made both our countries great. End of section checked against BBC Radio News Report 1300 29 July 1987.