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1994 - Mr Major’s Comments on Europe

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on Europe during an interview given in 10 Downing Street, London on 7th June 1994.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if Britain should go further towards European integration].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think, over the last few years, we’ve moved towards a consensus in Europe on the way in which it should develop. What I think many people misunderstand in the way in which the European debate has been moving. Too often it’s conducted in extremes - one is either a Euro-sceptic, wants nothing to do with Europe, or one’s a Euro-enthusiast and wants total federalist integration. Now, the reality is, the vast majority of people listening to this interview will want neither of those two things, they will want sensible cooperation with Europe and sensible decisions taken on the basis of changing circumstances, and that is what I want.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked about John Gummer’s comments about Britain isn’t going slower than the rest of the Europe].

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, what is meant by a slower speed? I think we have to determine precisely what is meant by that. Different people mean different things by it. The position of the British Government is quite clear - we need to be at the centre of the European debate, what I once called the “heart of Europe”. What that emphatically does not mean is that whenever an idea is suggested in Europe that we automatically agree with it and go along with it if we think it’s not in the interest of the British nation or indeed of Europe as a whole. And there have been many areas where we’ve taken a sharply contrary view to our partners and persuaded them that our view is right, the Single Market for example, reform of the Common Agricultural Policy for example, deregulation. Many countries were hostile to deregulation, Britain and Germany, in partnership now, leading the Community more towards deregulation. Subsidiarity - the concept of handing powers that ought not to be held by Brussels back to the nation state, pushed by the British because we are at the centre of Europe, adopted by others now producing their own lists. That’s what I mean by being at the heart of Europe.

Now some people would have said, we were in the slow lane because we objected to what the majority view was, but in reality we were right and eventually they followed our position.