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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 whether the Maastricht Treaty would progress quickly following the Danish referendum result].

PRIME MINISTER:

I am certainly pleased the Danes have cleared that uncertainty up, it has been a very debilitating, very difficult period both in Denmark, right across the Community, and certainly in the United Kingdom as well. We have the third reading of the bill in the Commons on Thursday, I hope and expect it will be passed then. The bill will then move to the House of Lords and thereafter we will be able to have Royal Assent and ratify the bill.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he could get the bill through Parliament given the divisions in the Conservative Party and whether he would agree to the social chapter].

PRIME MINISTER:

It is a very decisive issue, Europe, it has been a very divisive issue in this country ever since we first joined it, and that remains the case. To take the particular points you raised, the social chapter firstly. I was speaking last night to a large number of employers at the CBI, they are absolutely clear that without the social chapter we are in a much better position. People think the social chapter offers all sorts of social benefits. I think it really more aptly ought to be called an employment destructive chapter, and that is emphatically not what we want in the United Kingdom, I want to put people back to work, not raise impediments to them getting work, and I believe that is what the social chapter would do.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked about Edward Heath supporting the social chapter].

PRIME MINISTER:

Ted is a very enthusiastic supporter of European development, I do not believe the social chapter is in our interests, I do believe it is very much in the British interest, in the British national interest, our own cold, hard self-interest to be right at the centre of the European Community. And I do not just say that for idealistic reasons. The European Community is where our exports go to, it is where most of our jobs over the last 10 years effectively were created from, because of our growth in trade where was a huge growth of small businesses and firms. We need that growth in trade, we need those jobs. I know of no-one, no-one, who has a practical alternative to Britain being at the centre of Europe using her influence. There are only three alternatives really: leave the European Community, hardly anyone is proposing that; stay in it without influence and be dragged along by the French and Germans, that is not attractive; or get in the middle of the Community, form alliances with our partners, different alliances on different issues, and try and wield real British influence in the European Community, and that is where I stand.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if there would be increasing pressure on Britain to rejoin the ERM and join the social chapter and whether he would fight or give in].

PRIME MINISTER:

I do not think it is quite as straightforward as that either way. For every member of the Community, throughout the lifetime of the Community, there have been pressures. When you have 12 nations, soon to be 16, working together always there are going to be pressures and difficulties. In order to win your way in the Community you need alliances, you need to be taken seriously, you certainly do not want to be sidelined with the rest of the Community ganging up on you, as has happened so often to this country in the past.

What we are seeing at the moment is a fairly dramatic move towards the sort of European Community that we in Britain have always wanted and feel comfortable with, a wider Community, because of the agreements at Edinburgh the EFTAN nations will soon be joining. They will firstly be net contributors to the budget, which will save us money, and secondly they will be free traders. We have different governments across Europe, more inclined to the British point of view. We are at the moment in a better position than we have been, I believe, at any stage in our membership to start influencing the Community to go in the direction that we the British would like to see it moving.