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1993 - Mr Major’s Comments on the Maastricht Treaty

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on the Maastricht Treaty, made during an interview held on 19th May 1993.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked about the divisions in the Conservative Party over Europe].

PRIME MINISTER:

It is a very serious difference of view in the Conservative Party over Europe. There is absolutely no doubt about that, but I understand why that should be. This is a gut issue for the Tory Party; it runs very deep amongst people; they take a view very sharply one side or very sharply the other. They are operating from conviction. I can’t stop people operating from conviction in politics nor indeed would I wish to do so, but I think we have to proceed with the Bill. When we have concluded it, there is life after Maastricht, we will return to the other issues.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked what he could do about backbenchers who knew they wouldn’t be promoted so may as well rebel].

PRIME MINISTER:

We’ve had rebellions before and I dare say from time to time we’ll have rebellions again, but one thing I’ve learned even in the two-and-a-half years I’ve been Prime Minister is that the people who are rebelling against a particular policy one week may well be your strongest supporter on another issue a week or so later. I think people are clearly distressed. I would much rather we hadn’t had this great disagreement in the Conservative Party but we have a disagreement of people with convictions that differ but we will get through that. We will conclude the Bill and then we will turn on to other issues where those disagreements won’t arise.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if Britain would rejoin the ERM].

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t think that is imminent, no, for reasons we have set out in the past. I think we would need the economies to be much closer together than they are at the moment. Some of the major economies in Europe are at present going in different directions. That is not a Clementine to rejoin the Exchange Rate Mechanism so I don’t think that is imminent. It will be some while before we consider it.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked that if the ERM was a pre-cursor to a single currency, whether it would be necessary for Britain to join again].

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, well you say that of course when you are referring to the movement towards Economic and Monetary Union, but I think the changes that we have seen in European economies over the last two years rather bear out the reservations that I expressed at Maastricht, before Maastricht and subsequent to Maastricht. In order for Economic and Monetary Union, a single currency, to work you would need convergence of the European economies; they would need to come together. I know of no-one who thinks they have come together in recent years, quite the reverse in fact; they have moved further apart. Although the time-scale may lay on the table for Economic and Monetary Union, I very much doubt that it is realistic.