Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 Dec 5 Sa
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for ITN (Copenhagen European Council)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Eigtveds Pakhus, Copenhagen
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Jon Snow, ITN, reporting
Editorial comments: Evening. MT gave a press conference and interviews before departing for the airfield. She took off for Heathrow at 2025.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1819
Themes: Agriculture, Defence (arms control), European Union Budget, Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Health policy, Women

Jon Snow, ITN

Prime Minister, if this was not a failure and you really made that much progress in certain key areas that are important to you, why was it that you did not push on through the night, making a start again tomorrow and try and consolidate the bits that you could actually agree on?

Prime Minister

Because I think there are still large areas that we have not discussed, for example the structural funds, which are very important to the poorer countries. But obviously, there has been quite a long discussion. We have had only a very preliminary discussion.

The main and biggest achievement was how far we got with dealing with surpluses, both dealing with past surpluses and stopping the build-up of future surpluses.

I used to come here saying we must have effective and binding control and people see me and mutter “effective and binding control” . Now they are agreeing to it, and we were actually agreeing methods of doing that. We got a very long way and I am very pleased about that. [end p1]

Jon Snow, ITN

Nevertheless, you did not get agreement that you could actually put into writing.

You met once in Brussels; you have met here; you will meeting again in Brussels now for an extra summit. How often can you meet and not win agreement?

Prime Minister

You know, you often ask me questions like that, but we have had this kind of thing happen before.

We had a very difficult meeting at Brussels before we had the famous Fontainebleau meeting at which we got our deal—a very good deal—on finances and the amount we contribute to the Community. You often have a difficult meeting before you get a breakthrough and I hope that will happen this time.

I came here with a certain number of objectives:

First, to try to deal with the surpluses, the past, and to stop build-up, and that is through what is called agricultural stabilisers—the jargon is awful. We are getting a long way with that.

Secondly, to get a reasonable deal on structural funds. We have scarcely touched that.

Thirdly, how the Community should be financed during the coming years, because obviously we are going to have increased expenditure, and to keep that expenditure to the minimum. We had a long discussion about that and how relative prosperity should come into it but we are nowhere near a solution. [end p2]

And fourthly, to make certain what is called our own “rebate” —our famous rebate—continues, because without that we could not agree to the other things.

Now, we were not going to fudge the surpluses, because if we fudged questions on that we should be running away from tough decisions, and we are determined to make them and are a long way. We got further with that than anything else.

So we really are quite well on course for the action which we had hoped to get out of this meeting and out of the next one.

Jon Snow, ITN

Nevertheless, some Euro summit watchers are going to be saying: “Look! If Europe cannot get its grocery bills right, what possible right can it then have to try to influence the much greater affairs of the world which are about to be discussed at the summit in Washington?”

Prime Minister

I am very glad you are calling them “grocery bills” , because one of the things which I have been saying to them is: “Look! There is no question of an oils and fats tax because of what it would do to the consumer!” We practically won that one at the last meeting and it raised its head just very briefly again this time, but that was another quiet battle that on the whole we won.

I understand what you are saying, that if we are finding difficulty in meeting—there are twelve of us—then we certainly [end p3] cannot blame the United States for not having sorted out some of her budgetary problems, and we are very conscious of that, but we shall meet again within eight weeks and there will be a tremendous amount of work done in the meantime and we are going across a very very wide sphere and in the kind of detail that you do not usually get heads of government dealing with.

I was not going to give an inch on what I wanted and we did not, and we are steadily winning through to that effective and binding control which we seek.

Jon Snow, ITN

The language that your fellow European leaders have used about you this time has been in sharp contrast to last time. Last time, the word “housewife” cropped up in the French reference to you in a derogatory sense. This time they have talked of you as being conciliatory and constructive. Has there been a change in the Margaret Thatcher that attended this summit?

Prime Minister

No. I do not find being called a housewife is derogatory at all. I am quite pleased. I think it is a very human thing to be called. Also, housewives know a lot about managing finance—a lot more than some men do sometimes—as I do remind them.

There was no reason to be anything other than very very calm and we had a lot of argument. At no stage did I have to give an inch or a pound. [end p4]

Jon Snow, ITN

So they have come your way rather than you moving theirs?

Prime Minister

Oh, yes. That, after all, has been the whole of the burden of our argument for a very long time: that we simply could not go on growing food that no-one wanted, that they could not eat and we could not sell, and that we simply must also, when we agreed budget, have a way of keeping within the budget, and they were not keeping within the budget. Every time we agreed it, they overspent it, and I got fed up with this. Housewives have to keep within their budget, as I used to tell them. So we are getting effective and binding budgetary control.

We are dealing with both the existing surpluses—indeed, we had offered to depreciate those surpluses on our own budget—off the Community's budget—if everyone else would do so as well, but they did not. We were much more fundamental than they were. but we are actually dealing with this surplus food problem and that really is the first time we have come right up to it and taking the decisions which are necessary. It is not easy, but they are coming our way.

Jon Snow, ITN

You have a very different engagement ahead on Monday morning at Brize Morton. Why do you think Mr. Gorbachev wants to see you? [end p5]

Prime Minister

Because I think that from the discussions we have had in the past Mikhail Gorbachevhe knows that we will have very very frank discussions, that there will be no rancour in them at all, that no quarter will be given, but that we really will get to grips with the issues, both on arms control and on the other matters which affect relationships between East and West, and that he will learn a great deal from me about how the West feels about the action we propose and why we stand absolutely firm on some things and will never never never let our defences go, and I learn a great deal from him about their approach and I am also able to support him as far as the internal reforms are concerned, because I think he is making bold and courageous decisions and I admire bold and courageous decisions and wish them well.

Sometimes you can have very frank discussions without any difficulty and without any resentment. These are just such occasions and I am very much looking forward to it.

Jon Snow, ITN

One of the things you have said, which doubtless he has taken on board, is that you are not prepared to see any further missile reductions after the INF treaty without reduction of conventional forces. Are you going to be repeating that? [end p6]

Prime Minister

I think that the reduction of American nuclear weapons in Europe has gone as far as it should. Before it goes any further—they are talking about the intercontinental ballistic missiles, which is different after this—but before the reduction of American nuclear weapons goes any further or is considered, we have got to have a look at the total imbalance of conventional forces, where the Soviet Union have far more than we have and also at their massive superiority in chemical weapons which really are terrible weapons and really are a very very great threat on their own account. We must address those next.

Jon Snow, ITN

But do you think there will be anything that you will be saying to Mr. Gorbachev that Mr. Reagan perhaps will not say?

Prime Minister

I think we must get down to things probably in very considerable detail on these matters. It is going to be difficult. It is only two hours and last time I was talking to him for ten or eleven hours and so I shall have to think very very carefully of what points to put and how to make best use of the time.

Jon Snow, ITN

Will they be points that you will be worried perhaps that President Reagan will not put? [end p7]

Prime Minister

No. I shall put the things from the dual viewpoint both of NATO, to which I am a total, loyal and devoted ally, and also as a person living on the same mainland as the Soviet Union with the frontier of freedom going right across our continent with all that that means. That frontier of freedom, although it comes straight across the heart of Germany, is our frontier of freedom as well and the United States.

So we are loyal members of NATO and also part of the same continent and of course it is the land upon which war has been fought twice and what we want is not a nuclear-free Europe, but it is a war-free Europe, and that is just the slightly different viewpoint from America and ourselves—that we are part of the same continent where we have had world war start twice.

Jon Snow, ITN

Are you worried they might come out, as they did in Reykjavik, with a statement discussing a nuclear-free world by the year 2000, which worried you at the time?

Prime Minister

No, I am not. [end p8]

Jon Snow, ITN

One last question, Prime Minister, a very domestic one back in Britain—the sad news that the hole-in-the-heart baby in Birmingham died.

What are your feelings about this?

Prime Minister

I know exactly how those parents will be feeling. They will be feeling desolate. Do you know, to lose a child I think is one of the very worst things that can happen to you. It leaves a place in your heart actually which no-one else can ever fill. Their whole hopes will have been buoyed up by the success of the operation and by what the doctors and nurses were able to do, only to be dashed, and I would just like to say how very much I feel for them. But I am sure they are grateful to the doctors and nurses for what they did.

Jon Snow, ITN

Do you feel that the fact that this child was discussed in terms of cuts and being a victim of those cuts is going to be levelled at you?

Prime Minister

The baby had the operation, the operation was successful. It is tragic that the baby did not live. Let us not deal with it in political terms.