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1995 - Mr Major’s Doorstep Interview in Majorca

Below is the text of Mr Major’s doorstep interview in Majorca, held on Friday 22nd September 1995.


QUESTION:

Prime Minister, you like fireside chat summits, what do you want the chat to be about?

PRIME MINISTER:

I certainly think it is a very good idea to have this discussion. There are several things I think we need to address. Many people have great aspirations for one or other aspect of European policy. I think we have to look at some of those aspirations with a very cool and very clear eye, to consider what they are, where they are leading, what they mean and how they might be brought about. None of these aspirations is easy, we need to examine the difficulties as well as the aspirations.

QUESTION:

Officials say you are in a mood to confront your fellow European leaders with some realities, Are we expecting blunt words and what would those realities be?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am neither looking, nor expecting, that there is going to be a great argument or row on this particular occasion. But certainly I propose to set out, as I see it, some of the difficulties ahead in the policies that are being pursued. I think the European Union has lost much of the affection of the people right across Europe that once it had. Well that is in no-one's interest and I think people think that it often concentrates on the wrong things. Well we have to confront that problem, we have to talk about the things that are really relevant to the everyday lives of the people in Europe. I will most certainly say that. I will talk about the difficulties of competitiveness and what it means for job creation across Europe. I will certainly talk about some of the inherent difficulties of moving on the mainstream policies that Europe has been concerned around for some time. But it is not a question of looking for an argument, it is a question of saying there are realities not yet confronted that must be confronted before policy can be determined.

QUESTION:

Do you want them to get away from constitution-mongering?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think many people would think, so soon after Maastricht, that we spend far too much time on institutional matters and far too little time on the things that would really matter to the people across Europe, that is certainly my view.

QUESTION:

The new Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, has made a controversial speech suggesting that British interests will always come first in European matters, is this a signal that you and the Cabinet are all Euro-sceptics now?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't think I am very happy about labels being tied to speeches. I find nothing controversial in the British Foreign Secretary saying the purpose of British foreign policy is to advance British interests and to protect British interests. That is the government's position, the Foreign Secretary set it out very clearly yesterday and with the full support of the Cabinet.

QUESTION:

How do you think your fellow leaders here should interpret Mr Rifkind's speech in terms of Britain's attitude to Europe?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't think my fellow leaders in Europe will be remotely surprised by what the Foreign Secretary said yesterday, they have heard that message from me on innumerable occasions, in private and in public in the past, so I don't think they will be surprised about it. Moreover, I think if you were to ask the Germans, the French, the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Italians, they would say that they are concerned about their own individual national interests. That is the way the world is. The Foreign Secretary spelt that out very clearly.

QUESTION:

You are hoping to see Mr Bruton, at least in the sidelines here, do you think that you are going to be able to do anything after your recent difficulties to take on the Irish peace process?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is more of a brainstorming discussion. John Bruton and I have very regular contact, so do our officials. I think after the postponement of the summit we will need to look at a whole series of options. I don't expect great announcements and great decisions to come out of my discussions with John Bruton, that is not the nature of this process. We will be looking at the present situation, looking at the opportunities, looking at the choices and deciding the best way to carry matters forward. So I think that will be the nature of the discussion, and there may well be more than one of them over the weekend.

QUESTION:

Can there be any concession from your side on the question of arms decommissioning by the IRA?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think one needs to bear in mind what Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness and Sinn Fein have been saying for some time. They have been saying we are concerned about peace, the peace is going to be permanent. Well if the peace is going to be permanent, then they have no need of an armed force at their back when they begin to discuss matters with the other constitutional political parties. I think that is an uncontroversial statement that everyone will accept.

The reality is not British intransigence or anyone's intransigence. The reality is that the other mainstream political parties in Northern Ireland will not sit down with Sinn Fein until they are satisfied that Sinn Fein and the IRA are going to begin to disarm. Now that is the reality of life and there is no point in ducking that reality, it is there. I see no purpose in all-party talks if no-one is going to come to the table to talk. If there is intransigence everywhere, the intransigence must be removed. And the principal stumbling block at the moment is that despite all they have said thus far, we have no concrete evidence that Sinn Fein are going to begin to decommission their weapons.

That is the blockage at the moment. Once that is removed we can move forward speedily I hope to all-party talks and then onward to an agreement that would be put in a referendum to the people of Northern Ireland, and then to Parliament. But the blockage that needs to be overcome is to give confidence and belief to the people in Northern Ireland that violence really is over, that the weapons really are no longer needed, and the only way in which that can credibly be done is for Sinn Fein to make it clear that they would begin to decommission their weapons.

INTERVIEWER:

Finally, do you think that some of your fellow leaders will be urging you here to press on with economic and monetary union and if they are urging on the prospects of a single currency, what will be your message to them on that?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think one has to look firstly at the economic realities of economic and monetary union, and then of course one has to look at the constitutional and political realities of it. I will be saying to my fellow Heads of Government over the next day or so that it is perfectly clear that a large number of countries are simply not going to be economically ready to move forward. If that is the case, they are going to have to confront a different situation. What actually happens if a small core decide to go ahead and the larger core remain outside? That raises a whole series of questions not yet addressed by the European Union, and it needs to be addressed. They need to know, and we need to know, how those matters are going to be dealt with.