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 Joint Doorstep Interview with M Jacques Delors – 12 December 1992

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint doorstep interview with M Jacques Delors held in Edinburgh on Saturday 12th December 1992.


May I begin by expressing my thanks to the people of Edinburgh for the very warm welcome we have had and the excellent way in which we have been cared for throughout the last two days.

Let me say as President of the European Council I am very pleased to announce this evening a real breakthrough on a number of fronts at the Edinburgh meeting. The decisions that we have taken collectively today will enable the Community to go forward as Twelve, they open the way for new states to join, the Community has made important progress on subsidiarity and it has agreed a growth initiative that gives new confidence for investment and for jobs in every country throughout the European Community.

I believe we faced at this summit more difficult interlocking problems than at any recent European Council but I believe we can claim that today we have solved the Rubik’s Cube that was laid before us.

Let me turn firstly to Denmark. We have reached a legally binding decision which will enable Paul Schluter to go back to the Danish people and recommend a ‘Yes’ vote in a second referendum in the spring. Our decisions today deal with the genuine concerns expressed in Denmark but it does not require a change in the treaty and it does not require a fresh round of ratification in member states.

Second, the economy. The growth initiative we have agreed today will boost confidence and promote economic recovery right the way across the Community, it includes a new European investment fund and a special loan facility to be provided by the European Investment Bank. In total these will be able to support new investment of up to 24 billion pounds.

We are completing the single market on time, a magnificent achievement which provides Europe’s businessmen with new opportunities and Europe’s consumers with a new freedom of choice and we will continue to work for a GATT settlement which could add around 200 billion pounds to world income.

Third, I want to say something about the budget. We have agreed on the financing of the Community to the end of this century. At a time of high budget deficits throughout Europe, we will keep the present limit on Community spending for a further two years, for two years there will be no increase, thereafter there will be a gradual and a limited increase, this will cover the Community’s own necessary expenditure, for example on research and development, and also support development and meet real needs in countries as different as Russia and Somalia, we have provided of course substantial help to those countries. It will also help the least developed regions of the Community, especially in building up their infrastructure.

I have to say to you this was a very hard fought negotiation, while some pressed for much bigger increases others wanted less and there was a strong feeling that this was as much as the Community’s taxpayers could afford at a time when all member governments are having to restrain their spending at home.

The UK abatement has been the subject of discussion over recent weeks, it did come under some attack during that period. I made it clear that the rebate was not a favour to Britain but a recognition that we would otherwise pay an unfairly large amount to the Community. Our Community partners have accepted this, the rebate is now renewed unchanged until the turn of the century and cannot of course be changed without Britain’s agreement.

Fourthly, I would like to turn to enlargement. Here we have made a very substantial step forward. Up until now the formal position has been that enlargement negotiations could not begin until the Maastricht Treaty had been ratified, but all of us have agreed today that it is in the Community’s interests to get on with formal negotiation as soon as possible. There could l believe be no better sign of an outward looking Community and I believe this will be very welcome news indeed to Sweden, to Austria, to Finland and of course to Norway.

The Commission have also put forward an important paper on the relationship between the Community and the countries of Eastern Europe. This paper, which is formally welcomed in the conclusions, calls for early trade liberalisation and full membership of the Community for the countries concerned as soon as they are ready for it.

Fifthly, subsidiarity. Under the terms of the Maastricht Treaty we introduced a new and legally binding principle of subsidiarity. At Birmingham we agreed that the Council must come up with a clear implementation package at Edinburgh and we asked the Commission to produce examples of existing legislation which might be changed or withdrawn or propose legislation which should be scrapped. At Edinburgh we have met all these targets and I would particularly like to offer my congratulations to the President of the Commission for the work that he has done to ensure that those targets have been met.

[Interruption from audience, Prime Minister responds]

I would just say before we continue that as far as I recall it was the United Kingdom that were the first country anywhere in the world to introduce a full scale environment department over 20 years ago and we still I believe lead the way in many of our environmental practices.

Let me return back to subsidiarity. We have agreed today guidelines based on the principle that the Community can only act where given the power to do so, national powers are the rule and the Community is the exception and we have also agreed new procedures for the Commission and the Council. And we now have a list of examples to show that this principle is having real effect.

Each country produces its own examples of excessive interference. In Britain today’s subsidiarity agreement is good news for example for groups threatened by draft directives, groups as diverse as the Royal National Lifeboat Institute and the St John’s Ambulance Brigade. And again I express my thanks to President Delors on this matter.

Sixthly, openness. In just 7 weeks since the Birmingham summit we have put together and agreed a package of measures to open up the Community to scrutiny by the people of Europe, we will open up debates on issues of general Community interest, we will ensure Community legislation is simpler and clearer and we will publish voting records whenever formal votes are taken in the Council.

We have also agreed two important issues that have been outstanding for a number of Presidencies. On sites of institutions we have signed a decision this evening confirming the sites and working arrangements for all the main Community institutions – the Parliament, the Council, the Commission and some others – that is the heart of the problem that has blocked decisions on sites of institutions for years. We have agreed that decisions on new institutions, the European Central Bank and others will be pursued by the next Presidency.

On Members of the European Parliament, we have agreed to increase the number of German Members of the European Parliament to reflect unification and at the same time to change the numbers for other countries, particularly bearing enlargement in mind, this will result in a European Parliament of manageable size after enlargement. Britain received six more Members of the European Parliament, as did France and Italy.

Let me now turn to foreign policy issues. We have reached agreement on international aid for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The issue of recognition remains highly sensitive, but today we have agreed that we will not let it stand in the way of meeting the pressing need for large scale international assistance, that in itself we believe will help provide stability. We have also unreservedly backed the United Nations plan to put a battalion of soldiers to monitor the peace there, we would like to do the same in Kosovo. In Bosnia we have called, among other things, for the Security Council to examine systematically the operation of the No Fly Zone.

Let me try and sum up. It has been hard pounding during this European Council but as we come to the end of this Council and near to the end of our Presidency I believe that both for Britain and for the Community much has been achieved. The single market, the largest free market in the world, is opening for business. There has been a long awaited breakthrough in the GATT talks whose completion could give a 200 billion dollar boost to world income. We have today agreed a growth initiative which could raise investment by up to 24 billion pounds, creating jobs and boosting confidence throughout the European Community. We have provided the way forward for Denmark to ratify the Maastricht Treaty. The Community’s finances have been put on a sound, a fair and an affordable basis for the rest of this century and the Community has today opened the door to a wider Europe in the future.

I believe that as a result of these decisions the Edinburgh European Council will be remembered as the summit that put the Community back together and put us all back on the track for recovery.

  1. DELORS:

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would just like to add that contrary to the general atmosphere that has prevailed over the last few weeks, and contrary to what a lot of detractors have been saying, for these two days we have seen that the Community is in fine fettle, the Community has demonstrated that it is able to react in very difficult circumstances and the British Presidency has been able to untie the knot.

The Prime Minister, the President of the Council, has gone through the main points, I shall just add three comments myself. First of all when it comes to the common policies and the financial resources the European Council agreed on 85 percent of the proposals made by the Commission so this means, as the President of the Council has said, that we can look ahead with optimism to the further development of the Community over the years to come.

Secondly, on the question of the sites, that has been settled for the main sites, for the main institutions. It was not at all easy and it shows that there is still a family spirit in the Community which enabled us to clarify a situation which was very obscure and had been very contentious over the last few years.

Thirdly, I would like to pay tribute to the European Parliament because for the first time in the history of the Community the European Council took up a proposal from the Parliament, that is the Degucht [phon] proposal, on the composition of the European Parliament, and took that as the basis for the proposal that was fully accepted. That shows the sound health of the third institution – the European Parliament.



QUESTION (John Sergeant, BBC TV):

Prime Minister, following the agreement with Denmark, could you confirm that the Third Reading debate in the Commons on the Bill to ratify the Maastricht Treaty will now be held after the second Danish referendum and is there a chance that Britain could ratify by July 1st, which is the date suggested by the European Parliament?


The Danish referendum is now likely to be at the end of April or beginning of May. We can’t be precisely sure when it is and we will not be ready for Third Reading in the Commons until after that date so it will follow very hard on its heels. We will then ratify as speedily as possible but it needs to go through, of course, both the Commons and the Lords so I can’t be precise as to timing.

QUESTION (Boris Johnson, Daily Telegraph):

On the Danish decision, can you explain in exactly what way these opt-outs for Denmark change that country’s legal obligations under the Treaty of Maastricht and if they don’t change Denmark’s legal obligations, how can Denmark go ahead and have a second referendum on an unchanged treaty?


I think it clarifies and interprets a great deal that was of concern to Denmark and I think you will need to look very carefully at what we have done. It is a mixture of a unilateral Declaration by Denmark, a Declaration by the Community as a whole, Conclusions by the Community as a whole and a Decision that has been reached on several key issues of importance to Denmark.

The key points are these: it is a legally binding Decision covering Danish concerns. The Danes won’t have to join the single currency or the Western European Union, the defence grouping, and that deals with their defence point. It will enable the Danish Prime Minister to go for a second referendum and I strongly suspect as a result of that it will enable the Community to move forward as a Community of twelve.


On the question of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the Conclusions there is a reference to the Lisbon Declaration.

My first question is do you read this reference as a reaffirmation of the Lisbon Declaration. My second question is that if and when the question of recognition comes to the United Nations, will Britain support the Greek position?


As the Foreign Ministers spent many hours discussing that, I think I will let the Foreign Secretary deal with it.


There was no effort at the European Council at any level to change the Lisbon Conclusions. As regards the second question, it is not actual and no decisions so far as I know have been taken by any of the member states of the Community belonging to the Security Council, certainly not by Britain, as to what her attitude would be in the Security Council if we encountered such a proposition. It certainly was not discussed in any way today, the handling of the matter at the Security Council.

QUESTION (Keith Rockwell):

My question is for M. Delors. Excuse me for asking it in English, Sir. Given the wide gap between what you originally proposed in your Delors II package and what was finally agreed, are you not disappointed by the numbers that have been agreed on this budget proposal?

  1. DELORS:

No. I have made a very rigorous calculation. I confirm that we have obtained 85% of the means we claimed for in the initial proposal.

QUESTION (Adam Boulton, Sky TV):

I wonder if in crude terms you could just tell us in pounds, shillings and pence as it were how much more this agreement is costing than what Britain was going for, the 1.25%, and who are the main beneficiaries and by how much?


The Community are the main beneficiaries and I do not think I am going to break that down for you this evening, Adam. Without going into too many technicalities, the Presidency proposal was for an own-resources ceiling – I apologise for using the jargon – of 1.25% of GNP. The final outcome is 1.27% of GNP and we have been able to reallocate resources to many of the most important areas but the details of this will be made clear quite soon.

I am not prepared immediately to put a pounds, shillings and pence price on it. It goes up to 1.27% in 1999. The increases are phased. There is no increase in 1993 or 1994. There is an increase of .01% of GNP in 1995 and the other increases are phased in steps until 1999 and it is in 1999 that it reaches 1.27% of GNP. That is the way in which it is phased.

I should say that a great deal of those extra resources was generally agreed and I strongly support this. It was on projects that will actually be devoted to infra-structural development of one sort or another in the cohesion countries and of course in the structural funds beyond the cohesion countries.

QUESTION (Robin Chrystal):

Thousands of Scots marched today in Edinburgh for a Scottish Parliament. The majority of Scots voted for parties other than the Conservative Party at the election. What is in the document that you have agreed tonight for them? Why does subsidiarity have to stop at London?


Subsidiarity does not stop at London. I think you are confusing subsidiarity with devolution. If you consider the proposals that are actually coming out of the Westminster Parliament, far from subsidiarity, which means moving something from an international level to a national level, we have actually been moving decisions from a national level in the United Kingdom firstly to the Secretary of State for Scotland but more importantly than that, right down to individual schools, individual hospitals, individual people and that is the best sort of devolution, subsidiarity, call it what you will.

QUESTION (John Palmer, The Guardian):

You spoke earlier on about the hope now that the final British stages of ratification would follow close on the heels of the Danish referendum in April or May. Do I take it that you are more hopeful that can be completed before the end of June and can you tell us whether the Danish agreement is judiciable in the European Court?


No deadline was set on ratification by the British Parliament. That is a matter for the British Parliament and Members of Parliament. They are an independent breed, as you know, and we will take the Bill through the House as speedily as we can consistent with good examination. Unlike many countries throughout the Community, the British Parliament will wish to examine the Bill line-by-line and clause-by-clause; they will have the opportunity to do so. It is a constitutional Bill; they may take their time over it. That is understood in the Westminster Parliament and it is understood by our colleagues across the Community. We have said for many months that we will complete ratification during this session of Parliament but I have neither been asked nor have I given a specific timetable for the ratification. We will ratify as speedily as possible.

It is not judiciable in the Court. It is a legally binding agreement amongst the governments concerning the Danes. It is not judiciable in the European Court.

QUESTION (Financial Times):

Prime Minister, could you give us your view on what the message of this summit is for the Euro-sceptics at Westminster?


I think everyone will draw their own message. I have spoken of the message that I believe comes out of this summit. I think it is a message of hope and growth for economies across Europe. I think it is a message of openness for people who wish to join the Community. I think it is a message that shows very clearly that despite differing national interests, the Community is able to come together on important matters and give a clear-cut lead and I think there is a further message as well: the message is that dispute the internal matters that have concerned the Community, we have also been able to look outward to new entrants, outward to Somalia, outward to Eastern Europe and outward to other problems around the world in which the Community is now a major force.

QUESTION (French Reporters):

Prime Minister, President Francois Mitterrand said just a few minutes ago that on Thursday night Britain’s position regarding the Danish referendum was basically that if there was to be a “No” you could not go along with Europe. Is that still the British position now?


We are working for the Danish referendum to produce a “Yes” but the principle of the Community has always been that the Community marches along as twelve; that is what all of us wish to see. That is why we have gone to so much trouble over the last few weeks and the last few days to agree a framework across the Community that we believe will enable the Danes to meet their domestic concerns and successfully put a second referendum before the Danish people but it is the joint ambition across the Community for the Danes to win their referendum and for the Community to advance as twelve initially and after enlargement as thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, whatever it may be.

QUESTION (George Brock, The Times):

Prime Minister, if the decision on Denmark is not justiciable in the European Court, can you tell me if there are any other courts it is justiciable in and if there are not any that it is justiciable in, in what sense is it legally binding?


Legally it is binding between governments; it is a legally binding commitment entered into between one government and another.

QUESTION (David Langston, Bureau of National Affairs in Washington):

On the growth initiative, the figure of £24 billion that you mentioned does not equate with the 26, 18 plus 5 billion Ecu mentioned by Henning Christophersen here today. Could you spell out precisely the terms of difference between the Presidency counsel and Henning Christophersen’s meeting with the EC Finance Ministers.

Secondly, a matter after your own heart, what can you tell us about the environment, which was a matter raised by some of the earlier interjectors?


On the environment, I responded at the time to the environmental points that the objectors made.

On the growth initiative, since I have one of the architects of the growth initiative here, I will invite him to do it. Chancellor!


In the two Community policies that were particularly put forward, that is first of all the infrastructure facility within the European Investment Bank that is designed to finance infrastructure projects throughout the Community trans-European networks, it will be able to lend up to 75% of the value of projects instead of the normal 50% and that could involve extra investment of about £7 billion.

The other main initiative that was put forward was a new European Investment Fund which will involve the private sector being involved as well. That will guarantee loans for investment, particularly loans to small and medium-sized business. There, the guarantees could be around £5 billion supporting additional projects of up to £17 billion or so.