Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Apr 12 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

Written Interview for Panorama (Italian magazine)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive (THCR5/2/287)
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: Embargoed until 25 April 1988.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1705
Themes: Trade, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Middle East), Commonwealth (South Africa), European Union Budget, Economic, monetary & political union, European Union Single Market, Transport, Defence (arms control), Terrorism, Northern Ireland, British relations with Italy

Q

Optimism is growing for West-East relations following the signing of the INF Agreement. Are you, Prime Minister, optimistic as well?

A

Yes but I am realistic too. We got an INF Agreement because NATO stood firm in the face of Soviet deployment of SS20 missiles. We said that we would put in Cruise and Pershing unless they dismantled the SS20s and we did. In the end, they agreed to take them down, after their intensive propaganda campaign failed to shake public opinion and governments in the West.

That is an object lesson for our approach to other areas of arms control. The next problems in Europe are to reduce the huge imbalance in conventional forces and the massive Soviet CW capability. If we negotiate equally firmly, I believe we can achieve satisfactory agreements which increase our security. But that doesn't in any way reduce the need to modernise our existing weapons- both nuclear and conventional- as necessary. Sure defence is the best basis on which to improve East/West relations. [end p1]

Q

You were the first Western leader to meet Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, and you appreciated his openness. But you seem at the same time the most suspicious of the Soviet “Smile diplomacy”. Isn't this contradictory? Should the West be wary of the “nouvelle vague” in the Kremlin?

A

My approach is clear. I welcome changes of substance; improvements in presentation are not enough. A more open and liberal society in the Soviet Union would be in everybody's interests- above all the Russians themselves. Mr. Gorbachev's reforms are a significant step in that direction. They require courage and boldness and I give him credit for them.

In foreign policy the picture is less clear. We welcome the Soviet intention to withdraw from Afghanistan, but there are still areas of the world- Cambodia, Angola, Ethiopia- where the Soviet Union continues to pour in weapons and extend its influence. And we have to take account of the Soviet Union's nuclear and conventional might, which could be used to intimidate us if we do not remain strong ourselves. Its their deeds not their words that we have to judge them by. [end p2]

Q

Italy considers herself the closest European ally of Great Britain. Do you agree?

A

We in Britain prize our links with Italy and I am very glad if Italians feel that way too. Those links go back far into history: the tradition of filo italianismo is a long one. We are close partners in the EC, in NATO and many other organisations. Our economies are expanding and we have more collaborative projects such as the European Fighter Aircraft and the European Helicopter. We admire your tremendous talents especially for design. Above all, people in Britain feel genuine affection for your country. We love your warmth and your spirit. So although I don't believe in exclusive friendship, I cannot think of any country in Europe to whom we are closer. [end p3]

Q

Will Europe succeed in becoming a single market with common rules by 1992? What difficulties remain?

A

All member states are committed to creating a single European market by 1992. And all will benefit from increased opportunities for trade throughout the Community.

We will not see a “big bang” on 31 December 1992: changes are already happening now, month by month, as decisions are taken to open up new markets. The aim is to complete the process by 1992. We have made good progress so far: over a hundred measures agreed in the last eighteen months. By the end of this year we hope to see agreement on capital liberalisation, financial services, public purchasing, standards and professional qualifications. We must concentrate first and foremost on those issues which create real barriers to trade between us, and tackle them in a way which frees European business and industry from unnecessary red tape.

Of course there will be difficulties. But a major stumbling-block was removed at the Brussels European Council in February when the Community settled its budget problem and put firm controls on agricultural spending. And we are united in our efforts to create a strong and competitive Europe- in which the single market is a key element. [end p4]

Q

Why did the British Government ask Italy to increase her contribution to the EEC?

A

We did not. But I am constantly being told that Italy's GNP has overtaken that of the United Kingdom. If Italy is wealthier, it is surely only right that she should pay more to the EC than Britain does. But that is not the case. Britain remains the second largest contributor and most other nations, some with per capita GNP well above Italy's or the United Kingdom's, are beneficiaries. [end p5]

Q

European financial markets are already closely linked together; but day-to-day services like banking, insurance and air transport are not. Would you say this is due to failure on the part of governments or to the resistance of monopoly-minded corporations?

A

Opening up services in the Community is a vital part of the single market. The three areas you have mentioned- banking, insurance and air transport- are all crucial.

Last December we agreed a package of measures to liberalise air transport in the Community. This will mean more competition on all major European air routes, and so paves the way for lower fares. But this is only the first step. We shall be seeking further liberalisation of air transport and other transport services by 1992. It ought to be as easy to transport goods between Milan and London as between Milan and Rome.

The Council has also just agreed a proposal to open up insurance services within the Community. This will mean that insurance companies will be able to sell insurance across frontiers. More important, it will mean that customers can obtain the most appropriate insurance cover for their needs at the most competitive rates. The benefits are obvious.

And on banking, we are currently discussing a proposal which, if adopted, would enable banks to sell financial services freely across borders without the need first to establish themselves in each member state. Again it is the individual who stands to benefit.

These are important developments. The single market is not just about removing technical barriers to trade in goods. It is also about opening up these vitally important service industries, in the consumers' interest. [end p6]

Q

Will Great Britain join the EMS? Will Europeans ever have a common currency and when?

A

Joining the exchange rate mechanism of the EMS is something which we keep under constant review. There are arguments on both sides. We will join when the time is right.

In the meantime there is complete freedom of capital movement to and from Britain and no exchange control. Many European countries have still a long way to go to catch up with us in that respect. The development of a common currency is a question for the much longer term. [end p7]

Q

Does Great Britain support the request of Palestinians for their own State? And should Israel withdraw from occupied territories in the West Bank?

A

The two basic principles for any settlement of the Arab/Israel conflict are clearly established: the right of States in the region, including Israel, to a secure existence; and the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. We support negotiations based on all the provisions of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 including Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied since 1967. There is wide recognition that Palestinian aspirations can best be met by a confederation with Jordan. [end p8]

Q

Why does the British Government oppose economic sanctions against South Africa?

A

The British Government's objective is the abolition of apartheid and its peaceful replacement, as soon as possible, by a democratic, non-racial, representative system of government acceptable to all in South Africa.

In company with our partners in the European Community and the Commonwealth, we carry out scrupulously a number of restrictive measures against South Africa which are strong political signs of the importance we attach to early progress towards ending apartheid.

But there is no evidence that comprehensive economic sanctions would promote the necessary change in attitudes and policies. On the contrary, their effect would be:

- to harden existing attitudes, worsen the cycle of frustration, violence and repression and thereby make change more difficult to achieve;

- to damage the South African economy. Economic stagnation would retard the abolition of apartheid. It would lead to increased unemployment and hardship among the predominantly black workforce. A general ban on agricultural produce from South Africa, for instance, could cause the loss of 100,000 jobs affecting half a million people.

- to undermine further the stability of the region. The economies of South Africa's neighbours are inter-linked with that of South Africa. They are in no position to engage in economic warfare. There would be no way of offsetting the economic damage that would result.

So instead of sanctions we pursue constructive practical steps to try to promote peaceful change and to bring help to those affected by apartheid in South Africa and to the neighbouring countries. [end p9]

Q

In recent weeks the IRA has shown its terrorist tactics more than political strategy. How will the British Government fight terrorism? What legal limits should be respected in the fight against outlaws? Could civil liberties be restricted, to some extent, in Northern Ireland as in Italy during the year of the Red Brigades?

A

We believe that the most effective way of dealing with terrorism in Northern Ireland is by firm action within the law. We are also working to improve cross border security co-operation with the Irish Government, who face at least as much of a threat as we do from the IRA. These policies are working. Over the last seventeen years, the number of yearly deaths has decreased from 400 to double figures. But that is still far too high in human terms. Recent events have been an appalling reminder of that. We shall not relax our efforts.