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Monday, 18 March, 2002, 14:14 GMT
Thatcher's Euro bombshell
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By Nick Assinder
BBC News Online political correspondent

A dozen years may have passed since Margaret Thatcher was kicked out of Downing Street, but she can still pitch hand grenades into British politics.

And now, with impeccable if accidental timing, she has rolled one directly under her latest successor, Iain Duncan Smith.

Lady Thatcher
So how will Lady Thatcher be judged?
Just as the Tory leader was hyping himself up for an assault on Tony Blair over the underachieving European summit in Barcelona - out comes Lady Thatcher.

In the first extract from her new book she suggests the UK should seriously consider pulling out of the EU altogether.

She brands the entire European project the greatest folly of the modern era.

And she even goes on to state that Europe was responsible for the greatest problems to have faced the world - notably Nazism and Marxism.

Internal divisions

Many will be tempted to dismiss her book as the irrelevant musings of an anti-Europe obsessive who has had her day.

But many others will welcome it as a robust and timely intervention that may help save the UK from a fate worse than death - further integration into the EU.

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith
Comments embarrassed Duncan Smith
Most worryingly for Mr Duncan Smith is the fact that many of those supporting her sit on his own backbenches.

Indeed, there was even a time when he would have been expected to thoroughly endorse most of her views.

But, since his election as leader, Mr Duncan Smith has succeeded in silencing the internal divisions over Europe.

And he was probably rubbing his hands in anticipation of the Commons clash with Tony Blair over the recent summit in Spain.

But Lady Thatcher deprived him of his advantage.

History books

Her remarks allow the debate on Europe to revert to its usual name calling and black propagandising.

Prime Minister Tony Blair at the Barcelona EU summit
Blair was facing EU attack
The Tory leader will continue to insist that Labour wants to take Britain into a federal United States of Europe.

And Mr Blair will continue to use Lady Thatcher's comments to claim the Tories really want to pull Britain out of the EU altogether.

Meanwhile, many believe Lady Thatcher is undermining her own legacy.

Like her or loath her, she was destined to enter the history books as one of the greatest post-war prime ministers, one whose programme transformed Britain.

Many now fear she will simply be written up as a prime minister who was defeated by Europe and became obsessed with destroying the EU project.

See also:

18 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Thatcher urges 'retreat' from EU
18 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Blair to report back on EU summit
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