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1996 - Mr Major’s Doorstep Interview in Dublin

Below is the text of Mr Major’s doorstep interview in Dublin, held on Thursday 12th December 1996.


QUESTION:

Prime Minister, how much pressure do you think you might come under at this summit over the issue of national border controls and of the national veto.

PRIME MINISTER:

I have absolutely no idea what pressure I will come under, but it is not really very relevant because the British position is fixed and it is not going to change.

QUESTION:

The European Commission President, Jacques Santer, has said that you are wrong to portray Brussels as being against national sovereignty, what is your response to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

I hope they will prove it in the negotiations, I am very happy for them to do that. But it really is no good of Brussels to say from time to time that there are only two choices in Europe: either to have a deeply integrationist Europe, though they sometimes call it different things; or a Europe that is nothing more than a common trading area. We are a good deal beyond the common trading area now, but I think the question is precisely how it develops from now.

QUESTION:

Can I ask you about Labour’s involvement in the Today programme poll?

PRIME MINISTER:

I know very little about that, to be frank, I have only heard broad rumours about it, I have been travelling for the last couple of hours. But the people in the back rooms at the Labour Party are pretty unscrupulous these days, they would frankly do anything if they thought it would gain votes, so I am unsurprised.

QUESTION:

Do you deplore that kind of behaviour?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think self-evidently so, but let us wait and see what we hear about it tomorrow.

QUESTION:

Can you confirm for us that Ministers are reported to have agreed on the selective beef cull going ahead?

PRIME MINISTER:

There are some exchanges of correspondence going on about the issue, but we still need to have some more discussions with Brussels on the question of the science and precisely how things proceed. So I hope we will be in a position to make a statement about the way forward sometime in the next few days. In the summer we decided to delay it because there was uncertainty about the science, and of course it was perfectly clear then that the over-30 months scheme, the cull of other cattle, was going to take much longer than we thought because far more cattle were being brought forward. We have now slaughtered I think just over a million cattle. That is far more than originally anticipated and it has taken rather longer. But we have now caught up the backlog and many of the cattle that would have been in the selective cull have now come forward in the over-30 months scheme. So the selective cull is likely to be at a much lower level than previously was thought.

QUESTION:

It sounds as though we are prepared to go along with that provided we can sort things out with Brussels, is that the position?

PRIME MINISTER:

The original agreement at Florence was that we would have the over-30 months scheme, we would then have the selective cull and then we would return for the scientists to have a look at what has happened and begin to get some lifting of the ban.

What we are now looking at is certified herds which would enable lifting in different parts of the United Kingdom as the herds were certified. But what has delayed matters, there have been many misleading reports about it, but what has delayed matters has been the extra scientific evidence that became available after Florence, some of which is still not yet determined, and that has really been the cause of most of the difficulties.