Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Sep 19 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference prior to visiting Spain

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Press Conference
Venue: No.12 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1435-1600.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3704
Themes: Arts & entertainment, Defence (general), European Union (general), Economic, monetary & political union, Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Law & order, Leadership, Media, Northern Ireland, Terrorism

Prime Minister

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I was a little bit surprised to learn that it was the first time a British Prime Minister in office had made an official visit to Spain and, of course, it will be the first time the Queen has made an official visit to Spain or a monarch from this country has made an official visit, so it is really quite an occasion.

I say I was surprised because if you think of it, we and Spain both have a great historical tradition stemming partly from our great maritime tradition, so we are both used to being outward-looking countries. That is important in the context of Europe, for while we are both members of the European Community, that may be the centre of our attention, but it is not the boundary of our attention and it would help having both of us determined to make Europe outward looking and not some kind of protectionist club.

We have other things in common. Alas, we have both suffered from some terrorism and know the great importance of cooperation, and we do cooperate with one another in order to defeat this scourge. [end p1]

We are now both members of NATO and we were delighted that Spain decided to join NATO in the referendum. There are some differences in that we are part of the integrated military structure and Spain, like France, is not, but nevertheless, we are both part of NATO and that means a determination to defend the things which we believe in.

We have one main difference, as you know, which is over Gibraltar. That, again, is because of the history and because of our commitments to the people of Gibraltar that we will respect their wishes on sovereignty, but there is a framework—the Brussels Agreement—within which we can negotiate the differences between us, but being both democracies, I know that we both feel that you should not impose upon a people a solution which they do not wish to have and that, of course, is the nature of our guarantee to Gibraltar.

We are very much looking forward to it. I have been to Spain, I am afraid, only once before and I am very much looking forward to it this time and have an interesting programme, quite a wide range of things to do and a lot of people to see.

I think the important thing is that you should ask your questions. [end p2]

Question

You have made a reference to the position of Spain in NATO. Are you happy with the way in which Spain is dealing her defence policy in relation with NATO and are you happy with the commitments of Spain to the Western Alliance, and the reluctance of Spain in joining the Nuclear Club?

Prime Minister

When you join NATO, what you accept is the doctrine of nuclear deterrence. That is vital. It is a fundamental part of NATO's strategy. That does not mean that you have to station nuclear weapons on your soil—Norway does not, Denmark does not—but that you accept the strategy of nuclear deterrence. Spain, in joining NATO, would accept the strategy of nuclear deterrence.

You also, when you join NATO, have to accept that it is an alliance, which means that we defend one another if the other is attacked and so you may have to deploy your troops outside the borders of your own country.

The third thing arises with a country which has joined NATO politically but is not militarily integrated into NATO for such countries and, of course, France is one: you have to agree guidelines for the operation of your own military forces with the NATO forces, should things arise. France has guidelines. I am not sure whether Spain has yet fully agreed her guidelines or not. I think perhaps it is still a matter of negotiation, in which case that still needs to be completed. [end p3]

Question

Prime Minister, it is the first time you mention you are going to Spain on an official visit, but you see quite a lot of our Prime Minister, Mr. Felipe Gonzalez, in European Summits and so on.

What is your personal impression of him? Is he someone you can make business with?

Prime Minister

I have seen your Prime Minister before he was Prime Minister. We are in No. 12 now, but he came next door but one to No. 10 when he was Leader of the Opposition and I was very pleased to see him. After all, I had been a Leader of the Opposition myself.

He came at a critical time for the future of Spain's democracy and we were able to put out a pretty effective statement that we thought it important that the newly-established democracy in Spain should continue and grow in strength.

We get on very well together, although we have have political differences, and are quite able to cooperate within the European Community and I am very pleased to be making the visit. [end p4]

Question

Taking the matter further on defence, there has been some speculation in the Spanish press in the last few days at some alleged opposition by Europeans to Spain joining the Western European Union without committing itself to accepting even at the lowest level, that is allowing nuclear weapons going to Spain.

Will you please confirm or deny whether you are opposed to Spain joining the WEU unless it is in those terms?

Prime Minister

I am not responsible for the Spanish press. I am responsible for many things, but I am not responsible for the British press, I am not responsible for the Spanish press and so I simply do not know what they have said or why.

I have indicated the things which joining NATO means having to complete. As far as I am aware, the negotiations with WEU involve the same sort of thing. Of course, it is quite possible to complete them as France has completed hers long ago, and as far as I know, the negotiations with WEU are going reasonably well and we are supportive of them.

Question

About Gibraltar, do you think the wishes of the people from Hong Kong are the same as the wishes of the people from Gibraltar? [end p5]

Prime Minister

The two are not the same.

Gibraltar is governed by the Treaty of Utrecht, 1713, and by the guarantee which consequently we gave Gibraltar when she got her independent form of government.

Hong Kong is governed by a treaty which leases 95 percent of the land of what is known as Hong Kong from China and that lease ends in 1997. That also is a term of a treaty and that treaty means that the land would return to China in 1997, so the position of the sovereignty over the land is quite different from that governed by the Treaty of Utrecht and it is a mistake to say some things are the same when they are governed by different treaties. [end p6]

Question

What do you really expect to achieve from your visit?

Prime Minister

I think the fact of the visit is one very very important thing. I hope that it will be an outward and visible sign of the closer relationship between the United Kingdom and Spain, an outward and visible sign of the way in which we cooperate together, as well as what you would properly expect between two sizeable countries within the Community. We have one other thing in common, that our economies are both growing very fast, rather faster than the European average.

So I think it is what you would have expected to happen but it has taken quite a long time to happen.

Question

Have you pledged to respect the wishes of the Gibraltarians? [end p7]

Prime Minister

That is part of our law, which is part of the preamble under which Gibraltar has her independent government and, as you indicated, we keep our pledges. I would have thought you would have understood the pledge as Spain is now a fully fledged democracy which means the right of self-determination of her people and the right to choose their own government.

Question

It seems that Mr Gonzales does not share your reluctance to Europe, your comment of Europe as an airy fairy idea, it seems that for the Spaniards, Europe is something more than you seem to believe. Do you think you are going to have a strong interchange of ideas about this Europe of the future?

Prime Minister

I do not think we are going to have any strong differences because frankly I am far further down the practical road to the European ideals than many of those who criticise me. There are only two countries in Europe which have total freedom of capital movements and no foreign exchange control, one is Germany, the other is ourselves. We in fact already deal with the ECU on the London market. We issued a big loan in ECU the other day. We already have our reserves in several different European currencies, even Germany does not do that. [end p8]

So we are far further down the road. Our financial markets are far more open than almost any other in Europe. Our shipping is open, other members of the Community can ply for shipping in our ports, from one port to another, I wish we could say that European ports were open to us in the same way.

So those who criticise me have a long long way to go before they can catch up with the practical steps we have already achieved.

Question

It is a statement of fact that you do not share other partners' views about monetary union or political union of Europe. Do you expect that these issues are likely to force serious disagreements during the forthcoming Spanish Presidency?

Prime Minister

No, for the simple reason that people who talk about those things have never defined them, never. They use these words and I say: “What do you mean?” I should ask the same question if I were you of other Heads of Government. I cannot imagine the President of the Council of Ministers in Spain or the President of France or the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany going back home to their Parliaments and saying there is no such thing as a country called Spain with its own sovereign Parliament any more. Can you? No. [end p9]

Question

Spain and England, as members of NATO, both share the same objectives towards Western defence policies …

Prime Minister

I think you came in late. I think we have indicated quite a lot which you might have missed, but if you finish your question I can tell you whether I have answered it already and if I have I shall answer it again in respect of your lateness.

Question

Prime Minister, you both share …

Prime Minister

We are both members of NATO, we are fully integrated militarily into NATO and Spain is a political member of NATO and her forces not fully militarily integrated, go on from there.

Question

I would like to know … (Inaudible) … about the American troops in Spain? [end p10]

Prime Minister

I do not think that was at the instance of America, I think it was the instance of Spain wasn't it? As I indicated before, joining NATO means that you accept the doctrine of nuclear deterrence, reaffirmed most recently at our Heads of Government NATO meeting. It does not mean that you have to have nuclear weapons or that you have to have stationed nuclear weapons on your own soil. For example, neither Norway nor Denmark would do that, but they accept the doctrine of nuclear deterrence. Is that clear?

I understand that there are certain terms and conditions attached to the Referendum and that is a matter now between Spain and the United States to resolve those issues. I believe that other members of NATO will accept the aircraft, but the American aircraft will no longer be able to find a home in Spain.

Do not forget, NATO is a cross-Atlantic thing. It is not just a European Defence Treaty, it is a North Atlantic and I think by accepting NATO we accept that and I think most of us say that we must strive to keep American forces on our side of the Atlantic.

Question

I am sorry that I am also late but would you think that by taking that decision to withdraw troops from Spain …? [end p11]

Prime Minister

That is not a matter for me, that is a matter between Spain and the United States. I am not involved in those negotiations. We are all involved in the sense that if certain things come out of Spain and we wish to keep America in Europe then we strain to see that those aircraft are located elsewhere and, as you know, certain offers have been received. But that is a negotiation between the United States and Spain.

Question

In your view does NATO provide the defence for European countries?

Prime Minister

When we join NATO we join an Alliance which reckons that we have to have a strong defence, we accept the strategy of a nuclear deterrent and we are all willing to play our part in that defence, if need be outside the borders of our own country. For example, we being militarily integrated into NATO, which Spain is not, station some 70,000 of our forces on the Front Line in Germany. That is our direct contribution to the defence of the Front Line in Germany.

Spain is not militarily integrated into NATO. Those countries which are not, for example France, they have to agree guidelines for the operation of Spanish forces, in conjunction with NATO, in the event of danger. I believe that those guidelines are being negotiated. [end p12]

Question

You say that Spain and the United Kingdom share the problem of terrorists. Can you see a solution in the short to medium term of the problem of terrorism in Northern Ireland?

Prime Minister

Terrorism—you simply have to go on applying the law and becoming ever more vigilant and receiving ever more cooperation to track down the terrorists and their source of arms supply and how they work. Terrorism in Northern Ireland is practised by people who do not accept the results of the ballot process. We had the border poll and the majority, a good majority of people in Northern Ireland wish to stay with the United Kingdom. Every single person in Northern Ireland has a vote for Members in the Westminster Parliament.

It is people who do not accept the results of that democratic system who try to bomb and main innocent people as a way of overriding democracy by force. They must never win, otherwise the future of democracy everywhere would be in jeopardy.

Question

What practical ways can other countries collaborate …   .? [end p13]

Prime Minister

We do collaborate between our Police Forces and one never goes into full details but we collaborate very closely. So we do, if I might say so, across Europe. Every democracy has an interest in defeating terrorism, every democracy, because terrorism is out to have the overthrow of democracy and to replace the ballot with the bullet and the bomb.

That is why we all have to cooperate, and do.

Question

Are you happy with the presence of police officers in the judicial inquest in Gibraltar?

Prime Minister

The matter of the Inquest is a matter for Gibraltar. The Inquest is underway and I cannot say anything about it, that is a matter for Gibraltar.

Question

There have been some doubts in the Inquest in Gibraltar about the Spanish cooperation with Britain in the fight against terrorism?

Prime Minister

Let me stop you, it would be quite wrong for me to say anything about the Inquest while it is actually being carried out. [end p14] In our country, and I expect it is the same in yours, the processes of law are impartially administered.

Question

But in Gibraltar …

Prime Minister

That is the answer to the question which you were asking and which I have, in general I am very satisfied with the cooperation we have received from Spain, very very satisfied. It is in full keeping with the principles that I have enunciated that all democracies fight terrorism and cooperate to the maximum extent because terrorism is the opposite of democracy and seeks its overthrow.

So yes we get full cooperation from Spain, yes we get full cooperation, as you have seen recently on someone apprehended on the borders of Holland and Germany.

Question

On the incident of Gibraltar itself, does it worry you that it may have damaged the image of Britain abroad? [end p15]

Prime Minister

You are asking me something which is concerned with the Inquest. Let me say this, any country which gives into terrorism is not defending its democratic rights and values. Let us have that quite clear. That is why we get good cooperation from the Republic of Ireland because the government of the Republic of Ireland understands that those who substitute the bullet and the bomb for the process of democracy have to be beaten, you can never surrender to them.

Question

What is the position of the Agreement between London and Madrid about the use of the airport of Gibraltar?

Prime Minister

We reached an agreement, as you know. We said that we would not impose it by force on Gibraltar. We hope, we would like Gibraltar to follow the agreement and we do our best to persuade her to do so, but in the end it is Gibraltar's decision but naturally we would wish that she would put the agreement into practice.

Question

Do you like the way the Chief Minister of Gibraltar is acting, conducting something that could be called “foreign” policy? [end p16]

Prime Minister

Sir Joshua HassanThe Chief Minister of Gibraltar is head of the self-government of Gibraltar. On foreign policy, obviously we have a very considerable say. But you know we do not dictate to such people. We will follow our own obligations and sometimes we may indeed make our own views known. We have done, for example, about the Airport Agreement of Gibraltar. Of course when it comes to a matter of defence, then the responsibility rests with us.

Question

On the matter of European defence policy, would you say that Spain would be allowed to become a member of the Western Organization?

Prime Minister

As I indicated earlier, Spain is already negotiating with the Western European Union. I believe that the three things which I indicated have to be satisfied or getting very well on their way and I indicated we are in support of the negotiations between Spain and the WEU, to join the WEU.

Question

Do you think with the present Spanish policies …? [end p17]

Prime Minister

I am not an expert on Spain's present policies but in joining NATO and in joining the WEU, you need three things. First, to accept the doctrine of nuclear deterrence, which Spain does, she did at the last NATO meeting. Second, you have to be prepared to deploy your own Armed Forces outside the borders of your own country, within other NATO countries if hostilities should ever commence. I believe that the Rapid Deployment Force that you are in process of forming or have formed would meet that necessity. The third thing applies to those nations which join NATO politically but are not fully militarily integrated into the NATO structure. They have to agree guidelines on how their forces would operate with the military structure and I believe that those guidelines are being negotiated now.

Question

You mentioned the Brussels Agreement, the framework of dealing with the Gibraltar dispute. What is your assessment of how, within this framework, negotiations have been going on? Do you think enough progress has been made or there are still the main obstacles?

Prime Minister

I do not think that we will have anything further to say on Gibraltar on this visit. The fact is it is still governed by the Treaty of Utrecht 1713 which says that when Gibraltar is British [end p18] and if it ceased to be British it would go to Spain and that effectively rules out, according to our interpretation of the Treaty, total independence for Gibraltar. So it has self-governing status, but could not possibly have independent status because of that Treaty.

So that gives you either British or Spanish. And then when we had the laws creating Gibraltar's self-government, we gave the undertaking, in the preamble to that law, that we would not change the status of Gibraltar without the consent of her people. Now I do not imagine that a democracy would wish to change the status of a country without the consent of her people.

So yes we do cooperate as far as we can with Spain with the Airport Agreement. We do discuss these matters with Spain, usually with Gibraltar at the same time. But we did say because she is self-governing, as distinct from independent status, we would not impose it upon her.

Can I again say this to you? Spain is now a democracy. It was an enormous step for Europe and an enormous encouragement and an enormous thrill, I cannot find a better word than that, when Spain became a democracy. Democracy means that the people shall determine their own government, freely in elections, and shall be able to do that at regular intervals so they can change a government. You come into this comity of nations which are democracies so I would hope you would understand that when you have given a commitment to a [end p19] territory, to the people of a territory, you must honour it. Now I would have thought that that was a pretty good exposition.

Question

Is there still room for advancing on the framework of the Brussels Agreement?

Prime Minister

The Brussels Agreement is the solution of all, to try to resolve all outstanding questions but of course it is subject to existing legal international treaties or agreements which bind one party, in this case Britain, which are part of the law of our country.

Question

This month's index on censorship, a magazine, runs an issue related to the state of freedom of expression in the UK. Their final conclusion is that liberties are in danger in the UK because of your autocratic way of conducting the business of the government. Have you any views on this?

Prime Minister

Poppycock! I do not know how poppycock translates, but poppycock. [end p20]

Question

I expect you will have some time for a bit of tourism while you are in Madrid. Is there anything in particular you would like to see, like the Prado?

Prime Minister

But I am going to the Prado.

Question

You look forward to that?

Prime Minister

Yes, I have been to it before and that is why I want to go to it again. It is a fantastic collection, yes it is very much a part of Spain too, they are lovely pictures, beautiful treasures. Yes, I would have to be kept away from that.