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1993 - Mr Major’s Joint Doorstep Interview with M Balladur

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint doorstep interview with the French Prime Minister, M Balladur, held in Paris on Friday 28th May 1993.


M. BALLADUR:

[Spoke in French]

PRIME MINISTER:

Prime Minister, I would simply wish to echo what you have said over the last few moments. We have had the opportunity over the last couple of hours of covering a very wide range of matters, bilateral matters, some quite detailed matters, some matters with a very long term concern indeed. We had the opportunity of looking in particular at the Copenhagen summit, not very far away now, and what we might seek to achieve there. We have looked at problems we wish to address together like subsidiarity. We discussed the desirability of a GATT settlement and some of the difficulties that have arisen there, and we looked of course at the problems there have been in Bosnia upon which our two governments have taken a very similar view from the beginning and in which of course both of our governments have committed quite substantial numbers of troops.

That is by no means an inclusive list of the matters we discussed. A good part of our discussion were not matters requiring immediate decisions today, they were looking at problems and difficulties and opportunities that lie on the horizon both in the short and the long term and deciding how we might work jointly to seek to address those particular problems.

I think the Prime Minister might agree with me in saying that the relationship and the extent of bilateral cooperation that exists at the moment between the United Kingdom and France is as good, if not better, as it has been for many years and I personally am delighted about that and very pleased to have had the opportunity of continuing our discussions this morning.

QUESTION:

Have your talks touched upon the question of the Exchange Rate Mechanism and whether by appointing a pro-European Chancellor that improves the chances of Britain re-entering the ERM?

PRIME MINISTER:

We did discuss the monetary affairs across Europe this morning, yes we did discuss that for a while. The government's position on the Exchange Rate Mechanism was set out some time ago by Norman Lamont, that remains the position. The circumstances for Britain to re-enter the Exchange Rate Mechanism do not exist at the moment, they do not exist in terms of the relationship between British and German monetary policy and are unlikely to do so in the near future. That point was made quite clear by Norman Lamont, it has been made clear in the past by Ken Clarke and others, and it is the government's collective position.

QUESTION:

If the policy has not changed, why has the Chancellor?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have a full press conference this afternoon and I will address domestic issues on that occasion, not now.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible but about the social chapter]

PRIME MINISTER:

I argued against the social chapter in the Maastricht Treaty not just on behalf of my country but on behalf of all the European countries. And I did so for reasons that are as relevant today, if not more relevant, than the reasons when I discussed them in Maastricht. Firstly I believe that some of the provisions of that chapter would destroy jobs and not create them, and we had then, as we have now, a very high level of unemployment across the whole of Europe; and secondly, because we cannot just look at the situation within Europe, Europe has to compete with the United States, with Japan and with the Pacific countries. If Europe has costs upon their employers and consequently therefore costs upon the products that they produce, they will render themselves; less competitive with Japan, the United States and the Pacific Basin, and that will cost further jobs in Europe. And it was upon those bases that I argued against the social chapter. We have differing views in the European Community about this and I respect the views of my European partners, but those are the views I held then and hold now.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible but about the situation in the former Yugoslavia]

PRIME MINISTER:

I read when I flew in yesterday evening the remarks by M. Juppe on the question of former Yugoslavia and I endorse exactly what he said, the position and concerns that we have expressed in the United Kingdom are very closely mirrored in France and the Prime Minister and I hold very similar views about them.

QUESTION:

On Bosnia have you, the French and the rest of the Western allies come to the conclusion that the Serbs have won the war and if you have not come to that conclusion what are you going to do to roll back their lands gained by force?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have made it clear right from the start that we do not accept Serbian gains by force, that was made clear by the Foreign Ministers again just a few days ago, we do not accept Serbian gains by force. But you have to address the question that M. Juppe put yesterday: are you prepared to put 200,000 troops into Bosnia in order to force them back by force of arms? And we know the answer to that, people are not prepared to do that, but we will maintain sanctions, we will maintain diplomatic pressure and we will not accept the land gained by force.

M. BALLADUR:

[Spoke in French]

QUESTION:

[In French]

M. BALLADUR:

[Spoke in French]

QUESTION:

Could you spell out what you hope to achieve at the Copenhagen summit and what your discussions this morning touched on about that matter?

PRIME MINISTER:

I can spell out some of those things, certainly. We will clearly want to discuss the particular economic problems that exist within the European Community, the problems of unemployment in particular at the Copenhagen summit, that would be our wish and I think it will be the wish of all our partners as well. We will want to look in some detail at how we carry forward the proposals on subsidiarity, work is proceeding on that at present, we would like to see that work carried forward. We will certainly wish to carry forward the discussions on enlargement of the Community and precisely what that may mean. Those are some of the detailed matters, by no means all, but they are some of the detailed matters we discussed this morning.

QUESTION:

Can I ask you what assurances you were able to give M. Balladur about the future economic policy of Britain, whether there would be any change and how it will affect the preparations for Copenhagen?

PRIME MINISTER:

I set out our economic policy about the Exchange Rate Mechanism, which I assume is what you have in mind, a few moments ago, it has not changed in those few moments, it is as it was and as it will remain.

QUESTION:

And has it changed since 24 hours ago?

PRIME MINISTER:

I just said no.

QUESTION:

With a new Chancellor can the British expect accelerated interest rate cuts?

PRIME MINISTER:

No British Prime Minister or Chancellor discusses interest rate policy and monetary policy on occasions like this and I have no intention of starting now. As ever, we will take the right judgments on the basis of what is necessary for the British economy in terms of the inflation prognosis, that is what we have done in the past under previous Chancellors, it is what we are doing now, it is what we will do in the future.

M. BALLADUR:

[In French]

QUESTION:

We have witnessed some gradual changes in the British position on the Uruguay Round in the last few weeks, could we have your comments on the style and substance of these moves?

PRIME MINISTER:

I welcomed what was agreed the other day in the Agriculture meeting, we have to see what happens when we come to the further meeting at the beginning of June, but I have nothing further to say about the Uruguay Round as a whole, I hope we will be able to reach a satisfactory agreement on the Uruguay Round, I think that is in everyone's interest and I think that is generally agreed.