The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1992Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Comments on the European Union – 24 October 1992

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on the European Union, made in an interview in Cairo on Saturday 24th October 1992.


[Mr Major was asked about Norman Tebbit’s comments that the Maastricht Treaty should be defeated].


Let me talk about the wider issues that are at stake with European policy because I think they are perhaps imperfectly understood and they are very important. What sort of European Community do we want to build? I am clear what sort of European Community I want, I want an open market European Community, I do not want a protectionists Community; I want a wider Community, not a narrower Community; I want a Community that does not suck from individual states the authorities that rightly belong to nation states and I want some of that authority returned to them.

That is what I am seeking to achieve in the position the government takes in all its European policies. I do not want to see the European Community take a wrong turn. The British voice is essential to making sure that the European Community does not make that wrong turn. We need therefore authority in Europe and we need therefore to make sure that the British voice is powerful. Changing out mind on treaties that we agreed within the consent of Parliament is not a way to build up your authority within the European Community.


[Mr Major was asked if he was proud of the Treaty because of what was not in it].


Let us look at both what is not in the treaty and what is in the treaty. There are two things in the treaty we signed that are quite different from the treaty signed by everybody else. Firstly, we are not committed to a single currency. I made it clear that I did not believe the right economic convergence would be there and I refused to agree to a single currency. We are not committed to that in the treaty in front of us.

Secondly, we are not committed to the social chapter, not because we are not anxious to have good social conditions for people in this country, that is absurd, but because we believe it would damage employment prospects in this country and I refused to agree to that.
But there is much in the treaty that is of value to us. Let me give you two illustrations. For the first time in I would sat 25 years we have actually negotiated in this treaty a way of intergovernmental cooperation within Europe, outside the Treaty of Rome, outside the power of the Commission and outside the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. We have sought that for a long time, no-one else negotiated it, it offers a new way for Europe to begin to develop in the future to produce the sort of Europe that the British want.

Secondly, in that term called subsidiarity that we are now putting flesh on, we have actually opened up the prospect of actually ensuring that we do not get too many pettifogging restrictions that so frustrate people from Europe and we begin to return some power that they have taken back to the individual nation state. That is immensely valuable, it was not negotiated previously by anybody else, it is in the Maastricht Treaty and it is valuable to our interests.

[Mr Major was asked if it was worth him risking his job on this issue].


Look, I am not going to talk about this in personal terms at all, let others draw what conclusions they like about this. This is a treaty, people should recall this, this is a treaty that has been more widely debated in this country before I went to negotiate it in Maastricht than it probably has in many other European countries, even up until now. Before I went there we obtained the authority of the House of Commons for the negotiating position that I would take. I then went there, I then negotiated within that remit and I came back with a conclusion within that remit. It was received with acclamation in the House of Commons, not least in the Conservative Party in the House of Commons. We then fought a general election where it was perfectly clear that we would honour the obligations we had established under that treaty. It has had a second reading in the House of Commons and it was passed with an overwhelming majority on the second reading. It is now necessary for us to continue with the committee stage.