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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 Friday 13th December 1996.


QUESTION:

Prime Minister, can we deal with Barnsley first? You have now lost your majority in the Commons, isn’t it going to be very difficult for you in the future?

PRIME MINISTER:

I would clearly prefer to have a majority than not to have a majority. I don’t think there is any surprise in the Barnsley result last night, it must be one of the safest Labour seats in the country. Nonetheless, I congratulate the new member on his success, but I don’t think it is going to make a material difference. We have been operating with a very tiny majority, I have no doubt, providing people behave themselves, we will get through to our preferred date.

QUESTION:

But can you hang on until 1st May?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am not going to indicate any particular date to you Michael, clever though your question was. But certainly I think we will be able to hang on to our preferred date.

QUESTION:

Do you also expect to be in a minority of one at this summit?

PRIME MINISTER:

It will vary on different issues. There are some issues where we clearly have a different view from our European partners, that is undoubtedly true; on other issues I think we have a lot of colleagues and in some issues we are in the majority. So I think it will vary from issue to issue. But on the areas where we are in a minority, we have very cut positions and we will stick to them. Our partners know that.

QUESTION:

And would you therefore regard the summit a success if you managed to block any further progress in Europe?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t think this is going to be a summit in which serious decisions are going to be taken. What I would expect is that we will endorse the Presidency text as the basis for negotiations during the rest of the Intergovernmental Conference period. Now the Presidency text sets out everyone’s positions, the majority positions and the minority positions, so I don’t expect there are going to be serious decisions taken, it doesn’t look like that at the moment.

QUESTION:

Isn’t it at least possible that no serious decisions will be taken because this has been described as a wait and see summit - in other words wait and see whether you are still here in Amsterdam?

PRIME MINISTER:

It isn’t only the United Kingdom that don’t think it is right to take decisions at this summit, there are a lot of other countries who don’t think it is right to take decisions in advance of the detailed negotiation that is still required to be done. So I think that is a very sensible position. No, I think there is no doubt that some of the socialist countries would prefer to deal with a socialist government in the United Kingdom, that is certainly the case. The socialists across Europe, including Mr Blair, meet routinely before summits to try and concert their positions. Well I don’t think that the British people would like their national decisions taken behind closed doors in meetings of socialist leaders. So I am here, they will have to deal with me and I expect to be here after the election and they will still have to deal with me.

QUESTION:

Last night’s deal on the Stability Pact, France seems to have got its way, there will be political control over the fines, is this another fudge?

PRIME MINISTER:

It isn’t a final deal yet, I think the Chancellor will tell you, there is still a good deal more still to be done. There is no agreement yet on figures. I am about to discuss the details of what was discussed last night with the Chancellor, so he may wish to add something. But there is no final deal on this yet, but certainly it looks as though any decisions of that sort will be subject to political control and not automaticity.

CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER:

I think that the French had a good point, which we supported them on, the whole thing has to remain under the political control of the Ministers of the nation states who are taking part. But it is not part of the fudging the criteria or fudging the way it goes ahead, it is just to ensure that the Finance Ministers of the elected governments of the nation states retain political control over the whole process, and still you can combine that with a sensible Stability Pact and I think the Ministers sorted most of that out last night.