The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1997Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Conservative Party Election Broadcast – 18 April 1997

The text of the Conservative Party Election Broadcast, shown on 18th April 1997.


Good Evening.

This election is about jobs, it’s about education, it’s about health. It’s about people’s prosperity both at the moment and in the future.

But there is becoming one central defining issue that is raised on door-step after door-step: and I would like to address it this evening. Is Britain going to join a Federal Europe or is she not? I am not in favour of a Federal Europe. I am not in favour of a Federal Europe because it takes decisions away from the British Parliament that are property those for the British Parliament. If we in Parliament make mistakes – and sometimes we do – Parliament can reverse those mistakes. It can repeal the wrong laws. If we pass powers to Europe so that those laws are made on a European basis and they turn out to be wrong, they are irreversible. There is no chance of repealing. For that reason and for many others, I don’t believe we should hand our employment policy and matters affecting British jobs and British prosperity to Brussels. So no, I am not in favour of a Federal Europe. I am flatly opposed to it.

And then there is the wider and deeper question that I know concerns many of the people watching this broadcast. Should sterling enter a single currency if our European partners decide to proceed with it? Are there advantages in it? Yes, there are. There are advantages in it. If a single currency were to be formed and if if it were to be successful, it might extend a zone of low inflation permanently right across Europe.

But are there risks? Yes, there are very deep risks and we have to consider those as well. What is the core element of a single currency that gives rise to such caution amongst the British nation? I believe it’s the fear that inexorably, sometimes almost invisibly, we are being dragged further and further into a position where more and more decisions are being taken away from the British Parliament and decided collectively by the European heads of government in Brussels. I have not a shred of intention, neither has any member of my Cabinet or any member of my Party so far as I am aware, of surrendering the responsibility for taxation or expenditure to our European partners or indeed to anybody else – they are matters for our Parliament and for so long as I am leader of the Conservative Party, for so long as The Conservative Party is in government, there is no question of such powers remotely being transferred away from the British Parliament

I said this was a central issue. I think it is a defining issue as well. I will negotiate for Britain in these negotiations, firstly at Amsterdam on a Federal Europe and later on a single European currency. l am therefore in a different position from anybody else in this country when I conduct those negotiations. When I have concluded those negotiations – and do not ask me to set out every aspect of how I will negotiate now, for you will tie my hands in dealing with our European partners if I set out precisely what I would do in detail they would know precisely how to respond to it. Everybody in this country who plays cards would never put their cards face up on a table and then expect to win the game. But when I have finished the negotiations, I will come back and I will make a recommendation about a single European currency, whether we should join or whether we should not join, to the British Cabinet. The Cabinet will accept that or reject it. If it accepts that we should proceed for example, they will ask Parliament If Parliament accepts we should proceed, then that would not be the end of the matter.

For this is a matter of such overriding importance – there has been no matter like this in peace time, in the living political memory of anyone. This is of such importance that in those circumstances, there would be a referendum on the single question of whether we should enter a single European currency or not. It would be a referendum open to every adult in the country.

I will not take Britain into a single currency. Only the British nation can do that. Upon that, you may be certain.