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1991 - Mr Major’s Joint Doorstep Interview with Edith Cresson

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint doorstep interview with the French Prime Minister, Mme Edith Cresson, in London on Tuesday 24th September 1991.


PRIME MINISTER:

Good afternoon, we have had the opportunity over the last two and a half to three hours of a very wide ranging and free discussion over matters of mutual concern. We have been able to discuss the present position on the two inter-governmental conferences on economic and monetary union and political union, we have been able to discuss a number of bilateral matters, Yugoslavia and a series of other issues both bilateral and international that are of concern to both of us.

I think both the Prime Minister and I have found it a very useful exchange of views, we had the opportunity in France some weeks ago of a brief exchange, this was a much more substantial opportunity to discuss current matters and we have agreed that we will continue this dialogue up to the Maastricht IGCs where we both hope we will reach a satisfactory conclusion and of course on bilateral matters beyond that.

MADAME CRESSON:

Thank you. Our conversation has indeed been very useful and instructive. It has enabled us to clarify our positions in relation to the Maastricht summit at the end of the year. Regarding the two main points of economic and monetary union and political union, we have noticed that we agree on many points. In any event, we are very determined to advance on these two issues during the Maastricht summit.

It has been a friendly and warm conversation, in a very pleasant atmosphere; we have been able to get to know one another better and move forward on these issues. Our respective teams are in contact and will have further talks on the last text of the Dutch presidency which needs closer study from both sides.

PRIME MINISTER:

As the Prime Minister has indicated, there is a very strong agreement between us that it is highly desirable to reach a conclusion at Maastricht on the intergovernmental conferences providing we can. I think that is something we both feel very strongly, a great deal of progress has been made, there is a little more progress still needed, but we will be working together to see if that is achievable.

QUESTION (Eleanor Goodman):

Do you think you have Madame Cresson's support in opposing further powers for the European Parliament at Maastricht?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is a mistake, Eleanor, to assume that we are opposing all the powers for the European Parliament, we think there are areas where the European Parliament should have greater authority, we are discussing that with the European Parliament and with our partners and we had made some proposals for the political union text. So that is the British position but I will invite the Prime Minister to respond on behalf of France.

MADAME CRESSON:

Yes, the French position is very similar. That is to say, the powers that the European Parliament might gain are part of a whole package. In this context, we will have to assess what extra responsibilities will be given to the European Parliament. we are of course very open on that topic.

PRIME MINISTER:

As the Prime Minister indicates, the question is determining what extra responsibilities must go to the European Parliament.

QUESTION (Adam Boulton, Sky TV):

Mme Cresson, could we ask you about the situation we have at the moment with French farmers and the import of English lamb, what action do you propose to take on that to allow the import of British lamb on to your market?

MME CRESSON:

I have noticed that both the British and the French Press have covered this issue in many articles. I would like to say that French agriculture is at present in a situation that is very worrying. Our farmers, and in particular the beef and sheep breeders, find themselves in a very difficult situation.

Next Sunday a very large demonstration organised by the farming world will take place in Paris, to express its worry about the future. We cannot ignore this. Regarding your question on British lamb and the attacks on British lamb imports which have taken place, we are of course very shocked by such incidents. The French population is against such actions in general. Measures are of course taken to sanction such incidents. But one has to take into consideration the anguish of French breeders, Also, these British losses are being reimbursed. I know that moral prejudice is difficult to compensate but as far as financial prejudice is concerned, the French side is dealing with this.

PRIME MINISTER:

The Prime Minister has indicated just now that she is concerned about that but there are very real problems in France and she set those out but that she does not condone the difficult problems that have been faced and that there will be compensation for the damage that has been caused. This is a matter that we were able to discuss at some length over luncheon and it is a matter I know the Prime Minister proposes to take a very direct interest in.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, have not the Dutch today called your bluff by insisting on continuing with a federal Europe in their draft treaty on political union and how do you react to the news that we expect Jackie Mann to be released at 6.00 tonight?

PRIME MINISTER:

On the second point about whether the British hostage, Jackie Mann, will be released at 6.00, I very much hope that that will prove to be the case, I do not think it would be of any help to Mr Mann, Mrs Mann or anyone else for me to comment until that happens except to say just this. I hope very much that it is true, it has been an agonising time for Mr Mann, an equally agonising time I suspect for Mrs Mann, and it would be my fondest wish and believe everybody else's as well that he would be released very speedily and returned to his family, I very much hope that will be the case but we must await events, I hope we will not have to wait too long.

On the earlier point which is the revised Dutch text on political union, I have not yet seen the revised text on political union, have heard rumours of what it said, I gather it will be available to me later on this afternoon and I will examine it very carefully on that occasion.

But I have made it perfectly clear to the Dutch Prime Minister and others the areas where we saw very grave difficulty when we had a meeting last week. They can be in no doubt about those difficulties, I set them out clearly, they are still there.

But even apart from that, once the text has been received it is a basis for further negotiation, it is not a fait accompli, there will be many people across the whole of Europe who would have reservations about part of almost any text that any Presidency could produce, so what it is is a basis for further discussion and when we have the text we will discuss it and we will set out the reservations we have.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

No, everyone is very keen for there to be great disagreements but there is great agreement in the Conservative Party about the fact that we need to be in the centre of Europe, that we need to carry the debate forward. I do not have any doubt at all that we will be able to reach satisfactory conclusions. This is the way Europe operates, a proposal comes forward, it is often controversial, it is often a matter of very great controversy among some member states, but after discussions a conclusion is reached that is satisfactory for all the member states.

At the moment we are in the preliminary stage, by the time we get to Maastricht I hope we will be in a position to reach agreement, I cannot tell yet, there are certain reservations beyond which we cannot go but at the moment I still anticipate that the will to reach a collective agreement at Maastricht will prevail and that clearly is the best answer for us and the best answer for the whole of Europe.