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Huw Thomas 13DT

Was Thatcher anti European?



Margaret Thatcher's tussles over Europe and the UK's role in what is now the
European Union were among the defining moments of her premiership.

Agreeing with the thesis:

She passionately fought and won a number of battles against what she saw as
the excessive powers of Brussels.
In 1980, she called for the UK's contributions to the then EEC to be adjusted,
warning that otherwise she would withhold VAT payments. "I want my money
back!" she exclaimed. The battle lasted four years and finally ended in victory for
Thatcher but damaged relations with other EC countries.
Then came Westland - Michael Heseltine's battle to keep the helicopter company
in European hands with a takeover by a European consortium. Mrs Thatcher was
insistent that the US firm Sikorsky should have it instead. She won, he quit and
the affair caused further concern among pro-European Tories.
In 1988 there came the controversial "Bruges speech". 'No. No. No. We have not
successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-
imposed at a European level, with a European super-state exercising a new
dominance from Brussels," Mrs Thatcher declared.
All of this came against a backdrop of a government split over whether to join
the ERM, which Mrs Thatcher eventually agreed to do in October 1990, little
knowing that she was in the final days of her premiership.
In the same month, despite increasing divisions within her party over Europe,
she came up with another sound bite. The then president of the European
Commission, Jacques Delores, had called for the European Parliament to be the
democratic body of the community, the commission to be the executive and the
Council of Ministers to be the senate. "No. No. No," Thatcher famously told the
Commons on 30 October 1990.


Disagreeing with the thesis:

Campaigning for a Yes vote in the 1975 referendum
But despite all her battles over Europe, Mrs Thatcher did also sign the Single
European Act, which created the single European market - one of the biggest acts
of European integration.
In her 1993 book, The Downing Street Years, she defended the decision, saying:
"Advantages will indeed flow from that achievement well into the future."
Thatcher firmly revolutionised Britains position within the EU as she altered the
nations relationship with Europe by demanding, and receiving, a 700 million
pounds rebate, as she believed that Britain were paying too much into, whilst
not receiving enough from the EU. In addition to this, the main reason for the
Huw Thomas 13DT
rebate was that a high proportion of the EU budget, approximately 80%, was
spent on the Common Agricultural Policy (or CAP), which benefited the UK to a
much lower degree than other countries as it possessed a relatively small
farming sector as a proportion of GDP, in comparison to other EU nations.

Did Thatchers attitude and personality help or hinder Britain, with regards to
Europe?

Essentially, it could be argued that Thatchers staunch Euro-skeptic personality
helped Britain as her abrasive manner and diligence gained a massive rebate of
British finance from her European partners. Indeed, Thatcher orchestrated a 700
million pounds rebate for the British economy, as she believed that Britain was
paying too much into, whilst not receiving enough from the EU. In addition to this,
the main reason for the rebate was that a high proportion of the EU budget,
approximately 80%, was spent on the Common Agricultural Policy (or CAP), which
benefited the UK to a much lower degree than other countries as it possessed a
relatively small farming sector as a proportion of GDP, in comparison to other EU
nations.

However, her abrasive manner was not warmly accepted by the majority of the EU
leaders, in particular, the then President of the European Commission, Jacques
Delores. , Delores had called for the European Parliament to be the democratic body
of the community, the commission to be the executive and the Council of Ministers
to be the senate, only to be refuted by the resilient Margaret Thatcher, "No. No. No.
Moreover, Thatchers personality hindered Britains position as her aggressive and
controversial, Bruges speech, in 1988, in which she declared, 'No. No. No. We have
not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-
imposed at a European level, with a European super-state exercising a new
dominance from Brussels," causing further concern among EU leaders and pro-
European Conservatives.