Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Jan 22 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for L’Express magazine

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L’Express
Editorial comments:

1430. MT’s next appointment was at 1620.

Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 6824
Themes: Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), European Union Budget, Agriculture, European Union Single Market, Economic, monetary & political union, Transport, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Defence (arms control), Defence (general), Monetary policy, General Elections, Economy (general discussions), Labour Party & socialism, Conservatism, European Union (general), Foreign policy (general discussions), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (Asia), Trade

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

Prime Minister, may we ask you: Frenchmen feel great admiration for you and still there is a paradox: lots of them feel that you are, to some extent, anti-French.

Does this surprise you?

Prime Minister

Yes, it does. I see no reason to think that I am anti-French in any way and I cannot think why they do.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

I suppose this is mainly the result of that long European fight that has been going on for many years to clear the European budget, in which you have taken such a prominent role.

Prime Minister

I am sure that had France been in the same position, French politicians would have taken exactly the same course of action as I did and even after that long fight, we are still the second-largest net contributor to the Community funds. [end p1]

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

Are you optimistic about the future and the next European summit?

Prime Minister

I think the next European summit will be difficult. I think we were getting on quite well at Copenhagen because we were actually tackling some of the problems of surpluses - surplus foods - in particular wheat and oil seeds, but we were not able to complete it.

I think it will be a tragedy if we slip backwards from the position we had reached, but nevertheless, I recognise it is not going to be an easy summit. As a matter of fact, I think perhaps France and we are closer on our agricultural policy than in fact France and Germany are in reality, because Germany has a particular problem with farms; they are small farms and often part-time farms, but I think France and we are closer. But it is not going to be easy, but it can be possible at Brussels to reach agreement.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

There is one thing that your French admirers are, may I say, disappointed about. They have seen what we call a lot of so-called “European initiatives”. We have had Mr. Genscher, Mr. Kohl, Mr. Colombo, Mr. Mitterrand. Are we going to see a “Thatcher initiative” on Europe? [end p2]

Prime Minister

But, in fact, when we were President of the Community, it was we who gave the great push to completing the internal market, because we think that is absolutely vital.

One of the main things of setting up the Community was the aspect of a genuine single market so that we could have as large a mass market of people, as large a market of people as the United States. But there are still a lot of barriers and it is taking a long time to get those down and we were trying genuinely by practical means to reduce those so that we had the original aspiration of those who came together on the Treaty of Rome fulfilled. It is not yet completely fulfilled, but we hope it will be by 1992.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

Are you optimistic about it?

Prime Minister

Yes. We are going steadily, but I hope it will be complete by 1992.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

Do you envisage that Europe could have a common currency? [end p3]

Prime Minister

I am just thinking! You said “initiative”. You know, President Mitterrand and myself possibly took the most historic initiative after the Treaty of Rome, which of course is the Channel Tunnel. This is going to make an enormous difference and it requires, if I might say, quite one's customary persistence and dedication and firmness to go through with it, and now that should be complete at the same time as the single market in 1992, so it is going to be quite a great year. Quite a year - the two things!

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

Prime Minister, if we switch to East-West relations for a while, you have always been very frank about what you think of the Soviet system. How come you have become of the great admirers of Mr. Gorbachev, despite the fact that nothing much has changed till now inside the Soviet Union proper with the Soviet attitudes abroad and should the West, in your view, set a time-table for reforms and changes in the Soviet Union?

Prime Minister

If you are trying to change attitudes from one of central control right over to much more personal involvement and responsibility, it is going to take a considerable time.

Changing attitudes is the most difficult thing in politics. The problems emerge first and the benefits much later. I think [end p4] it would be very unwise to set a time-table for those changes in the Soviet Union, but I think the most difficult times will be the early years and the more beneficial later.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

When the Soviet Foreign Minister was in Bonn a few days ago, he confirmed the Soviet determination to go for a third zero option that would mean in effect denuclearisation of the European central front.

What is your reaction to this proposal and do you feel Bonn can resist such a proposal?

Prime Minister

Bonn can resist, Bonn must resist. The answer is “No!”.

Mr. Gorbachev knows my views.

The Soviet Union is still trying to sever Western Europe from the United States. The Soviet Union is very much aware that they have enormous superiority over the West in both conventional forces and in chemical weapons. It is therefore obvious why they are trying to go for a third nuclear option, because it weakens the West and relatively strengthens the Warsaw Pact countries. The West must see that and the Warsaw Pact countries must not succeed in that objective.

The next disarmament following the fifty percent reduction of strategic missiles between the Soviet Union and the United States must be reduction in conventional forces - enormous reduction on [end p5] the part of the Soviet Union - because we could not possibly come up to the level which they have attained, and also recognition that they not only have an enormous stockpile of chemical weapons, but they are modernised chemical weapons and it is always a mystery to me why people do not pay a great deal of attention to that because it is a quite devastating superiority that the Soviet Union has.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

Prime Minister, you have been the first Western leader to call publicly for a NATO summit before President Reagan goes to Moscow for a fourth American-Soviet summit.

Do you expect that this NATO summit should concentrate on the issues of conventional negotiations, reductions? Do you expect that we might have a communique at the end of the summit that will set priorities for the Western Alliance?

Prime Minister

I think it is quite possible, but I think that Western Europe and those present at the summit will appreciate the point which I have just made, that in order to be secure and have a sound defence, you must never let the defence of the two groups get out of balance. In other words, it must always be effective. That is why you must not go next for a further nuclear reduction in Europe - you must go for conventional reduction on the part of the Soviet Union and chemical. It is the same point and I think it is important that we all get together and make that point. [end p6]

We and France have a particular interest that our own independent nuclear deterrents should not be included and it has been agreed so far that they are not.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

Do you expect, Prime Minister, a new Soviet offensive on that particular side? Do you expect the Soviets to come up again with new pressures to get British and French nuclear forces includedd?

Prime Minister

I recognise that the Soviet Union would still like to do two things:

First, separate America from Western Europe; and

Secondly, try to drive wedges between some of the countries in Western Europe whose interests might not be wholly the same.

Both of those things we should be aware of. Both of those things must be resisted.

Our defence lies not in any kind of rightness of our cause. Our defence lies in having an effective deterrent to anyone who may think of attacking us and do not forget, if you look at the whole balance between the Warsaw Pact and NATO, there is only one piece of land that is liable to invasion: that is not the Soviet Union or Warsaw Pact - we are not likely ever to cross the NATO line; we are not that kind of people; we have made that perfectly clear, we are [end p7] defensive - so it is not the Warsaw Pact countries, it is not the United States; it is Western Europe that has this particular vulnerability. That is why we have to watch every step on disarmament to see that our defence remains effective.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

Until conventional reductions are not completed on a massive scale on the Soviet side, are you in favour of modernising your ground-based tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and eventually press for modernisation of remaining NATO nuclear forces in Europe?

Prime Minister

My task as a head of government and as a member of an alliance is to see that our weapons are modernised and up-to-date and an effective deterrent. We do not have an effective defence if our weapons are not modern. We do not have an effective defence if those weapons and our position does not take into account what is happening in Warsaw Pact countries and does not take into account their enormously effective air defence and things like anti - submarine warfare.

So our task as separate heads of government and as members of an alliance is to modernise where it is necessary to modernise to keep an effective defence. That means modernising the intermediate nuclear weapons, the short-range nuclear weapons, just as much as it means modernising our tanks and our aircraft and our anti-aircraft equipment and our anti-submarine equipment. [end p8]

I never understand why people separate these things out. Our job is to keep an effective defence and to take whatever steps are necessary to do that.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

And this should be, Prime Minister, a central point in the next NATO summit?

Prime Minister

It is a central point to anyone who discharges his capability of looking after the defence of his own country, and you cannot do it alone, so you have to do it together, so it is quite central in the Alliance.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

In your coming talks with President Mitterrand, are you going to raise the possibility that Britain and France could now - it would look logical to lots of people - harmonise their position against the coming Soviet peace offensive, because Britain and France are the only countries with nuclear weapons?

Prime Minister

Our positions with regard to nuclear weapons - our own independent nuclear weapons - are agreed; to use a more sophisticated word “harmonised”. We are agreed. We are not [end p9] involved in these. They are our own last resort. Ours actually are also seconded to NATO because we are integrated, and we are agreed they are outside these negotiations and in that respect Britain and France, as well as our interest in common with others, have this separate extra interest which we share.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

I am thinking back … you remember the historic days when Churchill offered France political union … there was a time in the Sixties until 1971 when Ted Heath had discussions with President Pompidou on pooling nuclear resources. Do you feel that there might come a time when both countries can think together about putting their potential together in some sort of way?

Prime Minister

I think there are two things here.

The first thing is that the shield and defence of Western Europe is NATO. For that to be effective, it is vital that American forces stay in Europe.

Within the NATO structure, there can be many bilateral relations, but within the NATO structure, so France and we have a particular interest in the independent nuclear deterrent.

It is quite on the cards to cooperate in other ways as well; to look sometimes to see if we can cooperate on modernising weapons. It is possible to cooperate in exercises and so on, but all within the framework of NATO. [end p10]

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

But, Prime Minister, if you were convinced that Franco-German or, eventually Franco-British sub-structures as you called them once, would have the effect of bringing France closer to NATO military organisation and to NATO military planning, would you approve of them?

Prime Minister

Not merely would I approve of it, I think it is the right way to go.

France, for her own reasons, has opted out of the military structure and is not integrated into the military structure of NATO, but it nevertheless makes sense for her frequently to choose to exercise her own forces in relation to NATO, to choose to do that, without necessarily joining NATO, because the defence of France is tied up with the defence of NATO and France is a full political member of NATO, of the Western Alliance.

So it is quite possible not to be fully militarily integrated into NATO, but choose nevertheless to practise exercises, because supposing anything were in danger of happening, France naturally would wish to exercise pretty far up on the German front, because that is her frontier as well as ours, as well as the United States, and you would expect that it would be part of the defence of France that as we would need to reinforce if there were a period of crisis, that it would be quite reasonable to expect that we should exercise [end p11] reinforcements through French ports. This does not have to be done only through France coming back into NATO militarily, but by France choosing to exercise her forces and make use of her facilities in that way, because it is in the interests of France to do so, and so you nevertheless honour France's particular view on not being militarily integrated but equally, she recognises that closer cooperation is in the interests of NATO and France and therefore chooses to do it that way.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

I believe, Prime Minister, that today President Mitterrand and Chancellor Kohl are setting up this Franco-German defence council which still has to be ratified by both parliaments.

Do you see this development as something positive for NATO and for Europe?

Prime Minister

I understand that France and Germany will always have a special desire - a deepest desire - for reconciliation and that this will have to be rejuvenated obviously from time to time and that I understand.

I would be worried if I thought it were going to be done disregarding the structure of NATO. It must be done in such a way that it reinforces the strength of NATO, which is our ultimate defence. It can be done in that way. I hope it will be done in that way. [end p12]

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

If I may just ask a silly question!

Prime Minister

Oh dear, that is a warning isn't it! I shall look at this one very carefully! It might be silly! It might be very subtle! Come on, what is it?

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

A French general recently, talking about the Franco-German Brigade, said: “Well, we should ask Mrs. Thatcher if she would agree to a Franco-British Brigade!” What would your reaction be if the question were put to you?

Prime Minister

I should ask why. “What are you hoping to do with a Franco-British Brigade that you cannot do by exercising with NATO forces of which we are a part?”

I do not believe in having things for show. I believe in having things for a practical purpose and why does one need a Franco-German [sic] Brigade?

Look! One-third of our armed forces - one-third of our army is on the front line in Germany. Not way back - front line and nearly half of the tactical air force is there, because that is where the frontier of freedom is and it is NATO, so let no-one ever [end p13] doubt the United Kingdom's commitment to the mainland of Europe, because as I say, it is our front line as well. That is why we put them there. I do not talk about this brigade or that brigade. I talk about holding that line together with allies who are staunch.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

Do you feel optimistic about the plan that seemed to be agreed by the British and French Defence Ministers last December about a jointly developed air-launched missile?

Prime Minister

We continue to have a look at this possibility. It is not fully agreed. We are exploring the possibility.

I think it is part of what you were asking earlier. The treaty on intermediate nuclear weapons refers to land-based weapons only. You are still able to modernise your air-launched weapons and your sea-launched intermediate weapons, both of them, and what you really are asking is the possibilities of cooperation &dubellip; they are called SMART weapons. I always hope to goodness they are as smart as they are made out to be! And of course, one looks at that and also looks to see if we can cooperate on that.

One also looks to see if either of us could profit from cooperating with the United States together on that, because one is anxious to get something that is effective and something which has the lowest unit cost, because that releases more money for other things in defence and it is our task to get maximum value for money. [end p14]

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

It could possibly be a trilateral agreement in that case?

Prime Minister

It would be a possibility as far as I am concerned, yes.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

On a different angle, but talking about the same defence issues, do you favour some sort of agreement covering coordination of patrols by French and British nuclear submarines?

Prime Minister

I am sorry, I have just had a message I had forgotten. Can I just read it out?

France and Germany did a joint exercise. It was called “Cheeky Sparrow”. When Britain and Germany did a joint exercise, it was called “Lionheart!” (laughter) What is your question?

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

The question is: do you favour some sort of agreement covering coordination of patrols by French and British nuclear submarines that would not involve changes in targetting? [end p15]

Prime Minister

Anything that we have of that nature or any discussions that we have really must remain under cover; they must remain secret, but do not forget that our nuclear deterrent is also seconded to NATO and we can withdraw it at any time for our own purpose, for obvious reasons, so I also always have to take into account our duties to NATO, because that in the end is our shield.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

We were struck by what you said recently about EMS, because after all, a lot of people I think even here in England thought that maybe Great Britain would join EMS.

Your arguments against it remain very strong, to the point where I wonder if you think that France being in it is suffering from it?

Prime Minister

No. That is a judgement for France to make.

We, I think, have a different position. One watches, for example, the price of oil every day because we are still affected, our currency. It is not because we are British we are affected by it, it is because we have oil interests so we are affected by it and we cannot divorce ourselves from that. It is a fact of life. [end p16]

It also is a fact of life that sterling is still also held quite extensively as a reserve currency and therefore, having two currencies like that in the EMS would be different from having one very big one like the deutschmark, so it would in fact change it.

I think that so far we have been right to be in the European Monetary System but not in the exchange rate mechanism. If that ever changes, then we obviously will have a look at it, but you know, it will be a jolly sight easier for the world and for exchange rates when everyone puts their own house in order and everyone has similar fiscal and monetary policies; when everyone runs their own finances in a sound way, which is partly saying the same thing and, when you get freedom of capital movement about Europe and when you get absence of exchange control.

Well now, we have freedom of capital movement, we have absence of exchange control. We do look at keeping our monetary and fiscal policies going in the same direction and I do like to keep freedom of our monetary policy, because sometimes we go up and sometimes we go down. If you have got to pour money in to keep yourself down, you know full well that that gives you problems with inflation.

So until each country really does put its own house in order and has the same sort of ideas, you are going to get variation in exchange rates and you will for other reasons, but there is no way in which you can sort of fix them all disregarding the underlying positions and expect it to hold, because life is not like that, [end p17] and you have to watch, as you know, with both the dollar and other currencies.

So far, we belong to the EMS but not to the exchange rate mechanism, and I think it has been better for the exchange rate mechanism that it is so and us.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

You mentioned the dollar. It seems that the Central Bank interventions did not do much to help to stabilise the dollar, so do you think the American currency will find its so-called “just price” in the near future?

Prime Minister

Central Bank interventions can never overcome the market. They can from time to time have an effect perhaps on a particular set of movements, but they cannot overcome the fundamental underlying nature of the market which is related to deeper things.,

They can have a temporary effect; they can sometimes ensure a softer landing than otherwise you would have got, but this is why I said no international agreement on exchange rates will hold until you have got your underlying house in order and operate pretty much in similar beliefs as to the way in which to run your economy.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

Do you expect, Prime Minister, that this year being a presidential campaign year in America and in France, this is not going to help very much is it? [end p18]

Prime Minister

I do not see, if I might say so, why in a presidential year in either the States or in France, you should run your economy in any way other than soundly. I have never changed my economic policy in election year. It has been my pride that I have not. The economic policy is sound and we do not go unsound in election years.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

I think most financial experts tend to think that “presidential years” as they are called are not very good years for putting your house in order.

Prime Minister

Yes, some commentators do tend to think that, but I hope that we have been one country which has said a fundamentally right policy is to put your house in order, a fundamentally right policy is to be consistent, and it is in the long run fundamentally right to think that people will understand that and believe it to be right, and have some healthy contempt for others who underestimate the fundamental shrewdness and wisdom of the electorate.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

Prime Minister, you have been quite successful here and I remember you said you put an end to the so-called socialist era in this country. [end p19]

Prime Minister

I will not say I have put an end to it. I would not be so arrogant.

I hope that by the time that our policies have been tried and tested for rather longer than at present people will realise they are fundamentally in tune with the British character and that they have produced far better results in material terms, but quite apart from that, they are fundamentally much better because they rely on the personal responsibility, the personal involvement and the initiative and enterprise of our people, and their conscientiousness and that in the end is much better than relying on central control and dirigism - direction. It is a word that has passed into our language.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

You were talking about evolution, and we were struck by a recent MORI poll that you certainly saw that seems to indicate that 58&pcnt; of Britons favour fully integrated arms service to defend Europe, 51&pcnt; want a European passport, 64&pcnt; advocate the unification of Europe. How do you interpret such signals that were totally unthinkable ten years ago?

Prime Minister

But you know, just be careful how you interpret polls when they are asking complicated questions like that. [end p20]

If you are really going to interpret public opinion, you really have to get down not by asking so much questions like that but rather deeper questions, making sure that they fully appreciate the meaning.

It does obviously, in general, make sense to have a passport that takes you easily all over Europe. It is not so much European passport, it is that each of us is accepted and we have it in common form as being a passport that will get you over Europe. That does make sense and I think people accept that.

Integrated force: the great thing about this country is that everyone wants and knows that we need NATO and that is never in doubt. It comes up in every election, because we reckon that our opponents' policy in practice undermines NATO and people know and realise that to be safe and to stop war, to deter war, you have to be strong. I think they realise that it is not armaments that lead to war; it is strength that leads to peace, and so they understand all this and expect us to work within NATO.

After all, they expect us to spend quite a lot on defence, they expect us to work within NATO. They know that weapons are highly sophisticated and that if any war ever started there would not be time to get new weapons in, so they expect us to be strong enough to deter war.

So yes, they expect us now we are in the Common Market to be able to travel more freely about Europe and expect as a matter of fact to have more freedom than we have. They expect you to be able [end p21] to sell insurance anywhere over Europe on the same terms; for your qualifications to be interchangeable, but to come up to a standard - you have got to be interchangeable. People are quite keen these days on coming up to standards. Not to make things easier, but to make things come up to standards. That is part of Europe, of course it is: that your goods go, that your services go, that your qualifications go, that you can travel more freely over Europe, and you have your defensive shield.

So in general, I would expect that.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

This has happened while you were in power and while you are in fact one of the forces behind this European process.

Prime Minister

But I am a firmly committed European, originally for political reasons. Any of my generation should be. That the way to stop any Third World War starting is to get your daily lives bound up together, to get to know one another, to have such a degree of cooperation that there never could be any thought of falling apart.

It is the practical aspects of friendship. You start it off by saying: “We must have a great friendship!” Then, you get the practical aspects. That in fact is the outward and visible sign of the friendship. Now, never get worried if in a family you have [end p22] little quarrels - what family does not? But all of this, again, is part of our overall strategy, but a strategy does not really work until it is accepted by people, until it becomes practical in daily lives.

So people do want to travel more freely over borders and yet they would be the first to know that there must be some border checks to apprehend criminals, drugs, rabies, safety, health, bacteria, illness, etc.

That does not surprise me at all. It is part of one's grand design. Also, I think it has been very noticeable in the last year. I think there is a feeling that the world is much more a global village now so that the degree of cooperation is much greater. Not rose-tinted spectacle cooperation, but very realistic cooperation, because that is the sort that lasts, where you really do thrash out what is in your interest and what in mine, but you are never taken for a ride. You are wary the whole time. I think there is that much realisation.

I think it is partly East-West, Mr. Gorbachev, and the fact of the Ronald ReaganPresident and Mr. Gorbachev together and that we, right in Europe, are perhaps among the first to see of the possibilities and make the contacts.

Then, through television, they saw the problems in Africa. We see much more about China. Somehow, the world has got a bit smaller and the realisation dawned that it is a bit smaller and that [end p23] is good. But you do not take anything for granted. At this stage, you have to be very careful that every step you take is a forward step and does not compromise in any way your practical love of liberty and justice and the need to defend that.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

You are always very frank about the central role of the US in world politics and in relationship with Europe.

Are you afraid a leadership problem might arise in the US next year?

Prime Minister

No, I do not think so. The United States is a remarkable country.

If you think about it, perhaps it is not quite so surprising why. First, there is its fantastic geography, which is quite different from ours. Second, and perhaps much more important than that, people went to the United States. They were self-selected. they went because they wanted freedom and opportunity. They found, some of them, they did not get that at home years ago, so they went there. They were prepared to be self-reliant; they knew it would be hard; they knew they had to make their own way; they knew they had to build their own lives; they knew they had to play a part in defending their own families; they knew that they would have to fight any criminal elements that they saw. They have this self-reliance. They have this enterprise. That is why it is such a [end p24] strong country economically; because they still first and foremost look to themselves for their own prosperity, their standard of living, their effort. They knew that if they were to survive they had a duty to their neighbour and they had to stick together to fight against the elements or those who would attack them, and that gives them a self-selected self-reliant inherent strength, and it is interesting if you look at their constitutional structure which actually is one of the greatest written expressions of liberty, what they did - having had experience perhaps of older European governments where they were not always allowed the freedom they wished as we developed it of course - they built into their constitution a series of checks and balances which made jolly certain that government could not have too much power. Sometimes it makes them difficult for them, and what it means is you have this tremendous enterprising strength, community spirit, sense of duty and understanding of the nature of liberty. You know, it is at the base of that great big Statue of Liberty: “Give me your huddled masses yearning to be free!” and so it is a remarkable country.

I think so much of the great philosophy and the religion came from Europe or the association of Europe with the Middle East, so many of those fundamental ideas, the intellectual ideas, the philosophy also from Athens, the law from Rome. We all contributed to it. Napoleon is noted for his battles; his fantastic contribution to administration goes far too little remarked outside France. So many of the ideas, so many of the scientific things came [end p25] in Europe as well, but this fantastic self-reliant, self-selected, pioneering spirit - “we go for opportunity” - still characterises America … it is a European country the other side of the Atlantic, so of course we stand together.

If you look at it, it is not America and Britain; it is a similar country right round the Atlantic Basin, so of course we stand together.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

Well, Prime Minister, I think you have answered more than we hoped. Not more than we hoped. You have given us plenty to think about and to write about.

Prime Minister

I think the other thing that you really must get hold of is that just because you are very friendly with one nation that does not mean that you cannot be friendly with another. If my friends have powerful friends, that is to my advantage as well, so the fact that you are friendly with someone does not exclude friendship with another and that is why it just enlarges your area of friendship, it enlarges your area of influence, it enlarges your area of understanding.

The other great thing which I simply must say to you is this:

The United States does think globally, because she has become a melting-pot with all the world's people, so she does think globally. We, by virtue of our history, from the first Elizabethan [end p26] times people took our beliefs to other countries, they went to be traders first, discover other countries, we had a great empire. France had an empire.

Other countries went out in Europe - Spain, Portugal.

We have a natural thing among European countries and we must never underestimate its importance: we think globally. We have contacts in Africa so we never forget Africa. We have contacts in South East Asia - France, ourselves and, of course, we have contacts on the Pacific, Australia, New Zealand. France has contacts. We, by history, think globally. Do not unthink globally! Go on thinking globally!

Where we have not yet had friendships you try to cement them, although to me Russia is basically a European nation. So think globally and extend it. Do not get jealous of other people's friendships. Friendship is a web across the world. It is a network.

We have this thing. We think globally. Very important.

It is really the Europe the other side of the Atlantic and Europe here. I mean, they are just a start. Because of that, we have contacts with Africa and because of the Mediterranean bases we automatically have contacts with the Middle East and because our religious history is there.

India we know, and if you think of some of the big countries of the world, in a way they were put together by influence, by a period of our history. If you forget about it being called an empire and say our history was interwoven. It is this part that [end p27] you have people in power who do think globally backed up by countries whose history is such that they think globally and they have relatives across the world. Just use this for the benefit of the future of the world.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

Precisely. Don't you think that one of our common problems today is that because of history Japan has difficulty thinking globally, though its economy is global of course in a way for investments?

Prime Minister

Japan has now, I think thanks to Mr. Nakasone greatly, started to think globally.

I think we were one of the first countries to recognise Japan in the early 1920s and its very significant contribution.

It is strange actually, if you think about it, you would expect maritime nations, all of them, to have used the seas as a highway of the world. We did. So did Portugal. France did, Spain did, but Japan did not somehow. I do not know why, but she did not, so you say: “Look! You are a maritime country!” but she did not. Perhaps to some extent she had a different culture.

But our maritime nations used the seas as a highway, as the roads of the world, but Japan did not. We were going right round there, as you know. The ships went all the way round and not always on the sort of trade we would be proud of now! But it is [end p28] just something that Japan did not use to be outward-looking, but nevertheless some people went to Japan and to some extent it was a closed society. And do not forget, when you went to China too, it was very much a closed society, so it was a totally different culture.

They started off by being very inward-looking and we started off by being outward-looking, but I think Mr. Nakasone really did wonders for Japan in getting her to think globally. Of course, trade has made her think globally, but as I said to Japan - we had a luncheon here the other day; we have a UK-Japanese group - in Elizabethan times, our mariners went out. Britain was not large enough to contain their spirit. They went out looking for new lands. So did the Portuguese, great navigators. They went out looking for trade. They found it. This outward-looking, “let us go out, let us see what is beyond!” brought back to our country an enormous variety of products, things we had never seen before.

The empire followed the flag as it so often does. All my life and all my grandparents’ lives we were used to having things coming in from all over the world and you sold things out and you did not look at things and say: “Oh, that comes from a long way away. We will not buy it. We will see if we can make it ourselves!” The thing was: “Ah! Can we afford to buy it? Yes! Let us buy it!” We were used to variety.

So we became world traders by instinct, by practice, and it was using the seas as the highways of the world - “Let us go out and see!” and so we have never had this thing that they have in Japan: [end p29] they see it; sometimes their instinct, I think, is not: “Do we like it? Can we buy it?” but “Can we make it ourselves? Do not buy it! Just see if we can make it!” So it is a fundamentally different culture.

I think that too will not be everlasting, but I do say to them: “You expect to sell things to us with open trade, with open barriers, but you really must run things; if you expect to sell things to others, you must expect others to sell things to you and not put up all kinds of little barriers that we know about. We recognise them. We know exactly what you are up to!” But now, Mr. Nakasone is breaking that down, but you see, changing an attitude is a long business.

You have problems in world population; you have population problems in countries. Some countries, as they raise their standard of living have to run fast to keep up where they are because the population growth is so great. Changing that is an attitude and changing attitude takes a long time, but you know, really, when you think of the technology we have now to get new views more easily into other people and to get the reason for them more readily accepted, again, it is another reason why the world is becoming a smaller global village, but this maritime thing, the West used as Caeser's highways, it did not necessarily happen in the Far East. It is fascinating, but it did not. I do not know why. [end p30]

If you look at the things in China, they got dynamite first, fireworks, they got the compass first, they got the basis of the turbine first, and India got the concept of the nought first, but really it was not until the science developed in Europe that they started to turn science to the use of ordinary people.

All right, it is a different culture. It may be that their culture was suitable for them and they kept their standards and their particular culture and we started to go out and are different, but the two worlds are meeting now, but do not ever forget that we - many countries in Europe - by their character went out; they naturally think globally - so do the peoples in the United States. They have this passionate love of liberty which they learned from Europe but which they did not always get and so we have this common interest, but that is not the boundary of our interest.

You look in Latin America. The Spanish, the Portuguese and the British capital so often helped to open up. We helped Simon Bolivar. So this remarkable European people. But then, you see, this remarkable Chinese people had a culture when we really were still in wide and fantastic, artistic culture, beautiful things. When those tombs were opened up, breathtaking! You can see some of their shapes - we had a Chinese exhibition here when the tombs were opened up - you looked at them as if they were modern, but they were thousands of years old and exquisite simple shapes which you would now call modern. Their lovely art, their economy, did not clutter things, beautiful, so we each had our own and it is all quite global now. [end p31]

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

“Global” is the key word.

Prime Minister

Global, yes. One world.

Jerome Dumoulin and Elie Marcuse, L'Express

Thank you very much, Prime Minister!

Prime Minister

Oh dear, that extended the interview quite a long time!