Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Sep 23 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

Joint Press Conference with Spanish Prime Minister (Felipe Gonzalez)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Press Conference
Venue: Moncloa Palace, Madrid
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1315-1400 local time. The value of this record is somewhat diminished by the fact that contributions in Spanish were not transcribed.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3339
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Industry, Taxation, Trade, European Union (general), Economic, monetary & political union, European Union Single Market, Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Law & order, Media, Terrorism, Trade unions

Senor Gonzalez

(in Spanish) Not transcribed.

Prime Minister

Felipe GonzalezPrime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen:

This visit at the invitation of the Prime Minister was intended to cement the friendship between Britain and Spain. I believe it has done so.

We have had a most enjoyable visit. We have had very good and profitable talks between your Prime Minister and myself and we have been very thrilled with the reception we have received from the people of Spain as we have gone about.

Within the discussions which Mr. Gonzalez has reported to you, may I select one or two topics to give you my views about them and the views that we have discussed. [end p1]

First, Europe 1992, which I know has occupied a number of you in your questions and your comments.

We have made enormous strides in the European Community in the last four years of which the latest sign is working towards a genuine common market in 1992. That means that we have to reach something like three hundred agreements on various products and on various services. We have already reached a hundred of those and are negotiating on the others coming up to the year 1992.

We very much look forward to the first Spanish Presidency during the first half of next year and we are sure that there will be a great leap forward in the number of agreements that are achieved during that time, so I shall be back here in 1989 not on an official visit but just as one of many heads of government who will be here at that time.

Secondly, with regard to defence: of course, we were very pleased that Spain decided to join NATO under the leadership of the Prime Minister and all goes well with that because we had a heads of government meeting in NATO a short time ago and agreed then the way forward for NATO.

With regard to the WEU, as you know, we are in the Presidency and we shall do our very best to see that Spain's application to join is agreed. As you know, we are supporting that application and it would be very nice if it could be agreed fairly soon. [end p2]

With regard to Gibraltar: may I say that the British Government is very sad that the Airport Agreement, upon which we all negotiated so closely, has not yet been implemented. We believe that it is a good agreement in its own right, that it will be very good for Gibraltar, that it will be good for the people of Spain, particularly those in adjacent areas, and also that it would be good for the Brussels Agreement if we could show that that Agreement produced practical cooperation, which is our objective in going into it. So we hope that that Airport Agreement will be implemented. We cannot, in fact, insist that it is. Our main weapon is persuasion and that we believe that it would be good on its own for the people of Gibraltar and the people of Spain.

May I go on to say that there is a vast amount of cooperation between the Spanish Government and Authorities and the British Government and Authorities in the consular work, of which there is a great deal because we have so many tourists, so much business and so many British people in Spain. We are very grateful for all of the cooperation we receive from the Spanish Authorities.

We have great cooperation against drug traffic, which I believe has been very successful and, as you know, we have great cooperation against crime and terrorism and it is vital for all democracies that we beat the scourge of terrorism. [end p3]

Trade between us was up by 20 percent last year. Britain is now one of the principal business investors in Spain and this morning I met a number of businessmen who gave me a very up-beat report on the prospects for business by British businessmen in Spain and, of course, were very complimentary—as are we—about the enormous economic progress in the standard of living in Spain. We have great admiration for it under the Prime Minister's leadership and we look forward to his paying an official visit to Britain as Prime Minister of Spain. He will receive a very warm welcome for what he is doing for the Community as a whole and for his wonderful progress in Spain and a very warm welcome as another outward and visible sign and chapter of the friendship between the people of Spain and the people of Britain. [end p4]

Question (Spanish)

Not transcribed

Prime Minister

I am right, that was just about Gibraltar and EFA. I am both listening to you and listening to the translation at the same time. First, about Gibraltar, I have indicated our sorrow that the Airport Agreement has not yet been implemented. Our main weapon is persuasion and continued cooperation under the Brussels Agreement between Spain and ourselves. We shall continue with both of those things. We think it is the way forward.

With regard to the European Fighter Aircraft, the four countries of course came to a preliminary agreement, and most of us have signed up since, on the importance of cooperating on that European Fighter Aircraft. [end p5]

It is extremely important to keep the capability of building such an aircraft in Europe and with that the four countries, Spain, Italy, Germany and France came together to reach a preliminary agreement and most of us have signed up on it and we hope Spain will do so.

I must point out that we had also hoped that France would join initially and she was in it initially and then in fact she pulled out. We understand from a speech that her Michel RocardPrime Minister has made recently that there may be some difficulties with the Raphael (phon) aircraft, that she is finding it very very expensive, and we would hope therefore that she might consider joining the European Fighter Aircraft. Again, France has always taken a similar view to that which I think Spain and Britain would take, and Germany. It is important to keep the capability to build these aircraft in Europe and we believe that that 'plane is an obvious example of that.

So I think negotiations are going ahead fairly well and we hope they will soon reach a positive conclusion.

Question (Spanish)

Not transcribed.

Spanish Prime Minister (Spanish)

Not transcribed.

Question (Spanish)

Not transcribed. [end p6]

Prime Minister

We have no formula for solving the differences between us. As the Prime Minister indicated, it goes back to the year 1713. The Treaty of Utrecht, under which it was agreed that Gibraltar was British and if it ceased to be British it would be Spanish. That immediately eliminated the possibility of full independence for Gibraltar, so that possibility was out by virtue of the Treaty of Utrecht, which still stands.

So we were limited to giving the people of Gibraltar self-government, but still retaining the sovereignty. When we came to give that self-government, it has to go through our Parliament by statute and we then gave a pledge, which went through our Parliament that we would not alter the status of Gibraltar without the consent of the people of Gibraltar.

So you have got one position determined by a Treaty between two countries and the second position determined by a pledge given by the whole of the United Kingdom Parliament to the people of Gibraltar upon the giving of self government.

The way forward, therefore, was in fact found by the Brussels Agreement that we should try to resolve all differences between Spain and the United Kingdom in an atmosphere of cooperation. We are trying to do that by such things as negotiating upon the Airport Agreement which is why, I repeat, I am very sad that has not been implemented. But the way forward is by the kind of cooperation we are having now, first in the wider sphere, second in Europe, [end p7] thirdly in all our general bilateral relations, and fourthly as democracies very much aware of the value of democracy. And in that spirit of cooperation we shall go forward.

I am not sure whether it is a formula, I think it is a process, but I can tell you that the cooperation is happening and is alive and well.

Question (Spanish)

Not transcribed.

Spanish Prime Minister (Spanish)

Not transcribed.

Question (Spanish)

Not transcribed.

Prime Minister

May I reply on behalf of Britain? We belong to the European Monetary System, that is to say we put part of our Reserves with that System, which is a condition for belonging. What we do not belong to is the Exchange Rate Mechanism, which is part of that System.

There are a number of reasons which have prevailed so far to prevent us from going in. The first is that there is far more trade in sterling than in any other of the currencies, so there is about four times the amount of trade in foreign exchange going through London each day than there is through Frankfurt or Paris, a very very much bigger volume of trade. [end p8]

Secondly, we are of course both a Reserve currency and we are both a petro-currency. Now the third point which I would like to make is this. We and Germany and Holland and Luxembourg have absolute freedom of capital movements, not only among European countries but between Europe and the outside world and we also have freedom from exchange control.

The rest of the members of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism have not yet got that but most of them are going to try to get it by 1990. Now that I think is the very next practical and important step to take. So that does not depend upon any theory. It is a practical step to take and when we have attained that and when it has been sustained, because it is not easy you know, if you have not got foreign exchange control, it is not easy to keep your currency in precise balance with a number of other currencies, and it has not yet been done in the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. So let us see what happens when we take the next step of getting freedom of capital movements which involves freedom from exchange rate control. We already have it.

Question (Spanish)

Not transcribed

Prime Minister

There is no such thing as a government ferry, if private enterprise wishes to do one I wish private enterprise well. [end p9]

Question (Spanish)

Not transcribed.

Prime Minister

I said that we actually supported Spain's entry to the WEU, that is much more than not opposing it, we actually supported it. No, it does not mean changing the view which I understand Spain adopts on nuclear weapons. The view is the NATO view, that is the view which your Felipe GonzalezPrime Minister and I agreed, along with other Heads of Government, at the last NATO meeting for Heads of Government, it is that all members of NATO support the strategy of nuclear deterrence as being a vital component of NATO strategy. That does not mean that all NATO countries have to accept nuclear weapons on their soil. As you know, several countries in NATO support the strategy but do not and would not accept nuclear weapons on their soil, but they accept the strategy.

Question (Spanish)

Not transcribed.

Prime Minister

Let me answer the last question first, because it is a very brief reply, no. Let me answer the former question, 1992, the attainment of a Single, that is a genuine Common Market, is right at the heart of the Treaty of Rome. It is actually put above the attainment of a Common Agricultural Policy, although it has been much slower in coming about.

So there is no doubt that each and every nation that signs up to the Treaty of Rome, in joining the European Economic Community, [end p10] signs up to the attainment of a Single Market. That does not necessarily make it easy to come to the requisite three hundred agreements we each have to negotiate very toughly, because you have to negotiate on the standards, on the safety, on the necessary banking conditions, on the necessary things for computers and electronics, and you have to negotiate, each of us, in a way that is fair to the industries of our own countries. That is quite a tough process and will continue.

You also have to negotiate on things like subsidies because the point of the European Economic Community is the point that there should be fair competition between the enterprises in the Community and you could not possibly have fair competition if one country subsidised its steel industry and others did not. Or if one country gave subsidies to particular industries and others did not. So you have to negotiate away the subsidies.

The other thing that you have to watch is that on things like mergers and monopolies, again if they are mergers or takeovers, they have to be fair as between one country and another. Otherwise you could have companies in one country being able to take over companies in another without any possibility of the reverse happening.

Now it is easy to say 1992. There are three hundred agreements on all of these things, each complicated, that we have to go through. We did the first forty-two during my Presidency, because that was when we made the start upon this. During the last Presidency we made again [end p11] I think over fifty under Germany and lots more are underway at the moment.

But they are tough negotiations and each of us, and our Ministers, have to see that they are fair for our countries because they have got to be fair for all of the countries, otherwise Europe will not work. It is a thing of cooperation between Heads of Government and Ministers.

Now the other thing within a Single Market is that you have to watch, and I must say it is not only getting down the visible barriers, getting the agreements, but you do have to keep an eye on, if it is not a contradiction in terms, the invisible barriers because there are differences in culture which can amount to differences in trading practices which are much more difficult to tackle. So you will find sometimes that one country in the international sphere, tends to have an enormous surplus on balance of trade because perhaps they do not, as a matter of culture, open their markets up so much to imports as others do.

So do not think this is an easy thing to attain. It was quite right to put a time limit on it, 1992. Otherwise we should have just gone on without making the effort to get there.

Now the view which I am taking is that if you want to get the Single Market, you do not in those three hundred agreements, want to make them full of intimate, detailed, regulations. You want to take away the constraints to trade and if you are adding an enormous number of [end p12] bureaucratic regulations, you are not acting in the spirit of the Community market and the package would make it slower to come about.

What we have agreed is the time limit, that is good, we are now negotiating toughly. Your Prime Minister will make enormous progress. I should point out that the Presidency of 1992 will be with the United Kingdom for the first six months of 1992, so the United Kingdom has a very great stake in seeing that we do well before we get there because it will leave us less work to do during that Presidency, and we are sure that things will go extremely well.

It is a great adventure. In the last four or five years, when Mr Gonzalez and I have sat round the table in that Community, there have been more advances than ever previously. We have tackled the Common Agricultural Policy, we have tackled the finances, and now we are tackling the Single Market.

There is in the Community a kind of spirit of cooperation, as there is in the rest of the international sphere, whether between East-West, whether the possibility of Iran-Iraq, whether between Namibia-Angola, there is a spirit of cooperation. It is very good. We have got it in Europe and we shall, I am sure, go ahead and complete that Single Market in 1992.

That is a long answer and I am sure Mr. Gonzalez will wish to add something to it. [end p13]

Question (Associated Press)

Prime Minister Thatcher, earlier this week the Crown Prosecution Service announced that it was considering prosecuting a correspondent from the American magazine “Newsweek” for having obtained and published an interview with the leader of the Irish Republican Army.

I believe a month ago, when you were in Australia, you commented that you believed that such reporters should be prosecuted if they did obtain and publish interviews with terrorist leaders.

I would like your comments on that and also if Prime Minister Gonzalez would feel the same about either foreign or Spanish reporters obtaining and publishing an interview with the leader of ETA. [end p14]

Prime Minister

In our country, the Irish Republic Army is a proscribed organisation and therefore it comes within the criminal law. Matters which come within the criminal law, when it comes to prosecution, are totally independent. The Grown Prosecution Services are independent of Government, because that is the fundamental constitutional position in our country—that the administration of law is not influenced by political judgements. So it is a matter for the Crown Prosecution Services.

Question (The Independent)

Mrs. Thatcher, the Gibraltarians seem to have blocked the Airport Agreement. What action can the British Government take to stop the Gibraltarians from blocking other agreements that are made?

Prime Minister

I have really already answered your question in everything which I have said.

We have only the weapon of persuasion. That, in the end, in democracies, is the most powerful and telling weapon of all; and the weapon of increasing cooperation and friendship between Spain and Great Britain. We cannot compel the Gibraltar people, as I have indicated, so it is persuasion. As I also indicated, we came to that Agreement believing it was in the interests of the people of Gibraltar. [end p15]

Question (in Spanish)

Not transcribed.

Prime Minister

I will answer briefly, because we are running out of time.

I do not believe that fiscal harmonisation by regulation is necessary or advisable. The fundamental basis of parliamentary government in our country is that Parliament keeps control over the Executive and the origin of Parliament was the control over by Parliament over the spending and the raising of revenue by the Executive.

Any selection of one tax from a number of others would, of course, affect the whole way and the whole structure of your budget and ultimately could affect the whole economic policy.

I do not believe, therefore, that fiscal harmonisation by regulation is either necessary or desirable.

With regard to social space, it is to me a sort of new piece of jargon. It is not one that we have. I am never quite sure what it is, but if it means having in a regulation on Community company law something on worker participation, then I would oppose that particular thing. I am a democrat and I am a meritocrat and I believe you get on by merit—not by giving particular privileges to one particular group of any kind. [end p16]

Question (in Spanish)

Not transcribed.

Prime Minister

With regard to the question which you asked me about Expo 1992 at Seville, we regard it as very important. We shall take a pavilion there. It will be a very good pavilion. We look forward to it.

Question

(English difficult to understand, but the question refers to the use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish people and the questioner would like to know what the reaction of the British Government is to such use of chemical weapons)

Prime Minister

We have made our reaction clear on any use of chemical weapons. We destroyed all ours in Britain as far back as 1958. We have striven ever since to persuade countries that have them to destroy them and we would like there to be a global agreement that chemical weapons should not be made and therefore could not be used. [end p17] So far, we have not been able to get that agreement.

It is, of course, something of great concern, I think, to a large part of the world that chemical weapons were used in the war between Iraq and Iran and must strengthen our resolution to try to come to an international agreement that we should not use them, should not stockpile them and should not make them.