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Lord Brittan & Lord Lamont
Lord Brittan & Lord Lamont
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: LORD BRITTAN, Former EU Commissioner & LORD LAMONT, Former Chancellor of the Exchequer JANUARY 6TH, 2002

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: Thank you very much, that's a splendid summary - our thanks to Mr Brok there for that summary of the situation in Germany and that's from someone who's on the spot and in the centre of it. And two people who are always on the spot and in the centre of things are here in the studio - Leon Brittan, Lord Brittan, home secretary under Margaret Thatcher and of course a vice chairman of the European Commission, welcome.

LORD BRITTAN: Thank you.

DAVID FROST: Young Leon. And Norman Lamont, Lord Lamont, John Major's chancellor of the exchequer, young Norman. Good morning.

LORD LAMONT: Good morning.

DAVID FROST: Let me put a version of the question I just put to Mr Brok, first of all to you Leon. Do you think that this surprisingly smooth introduction this week brings us closer to the same situation or brings a yes vote closer or just brings a vote closer in this country? Do you think it's a step forward towards the Europe you would like to see?

LORD BRITTAN: Well it's not a reason for Britain joining if it was not in Britain's interests, but I think it does help those of us who think it is in Britain's interest because it does show that something which was a very, very major operation was conducted successfully and competently and in a popular way when it was thought not to be possible. Norman, for example, said in 1995 that he didn't think that this was achievable. So once again, those who said not only that it's bad for Britain but it isn't going to happen have been shown to be wrong and that obviously increases the confidence that they're wrong about other things - that they're wrong on whether it's desirable for Britain to join or not - and bolsters the thoughts and beliefs of those people who think that it is in Britain's interests.

DAVID FROST: And Norman, do you think you've been proved wrong on this by the achievement of this week, the smooth achievement that everyone's praising today?

LORD LAMONT: No. No, I don't at all and I've never said that it wouldn't happen, let me say. Of course it has gone smoothly in most places but it seems a fair lot of chaos in Italy where I read in this morning's papers there have been great queues; very few transactions are taking place; prices in some instances have gone up by 30 per cent for a cup of coffee and there aren't enough notes and coins; and, in addition, a very major development today, the Italian foreign minister has resigned because a lot of the Italian cabinet are pouring cold water on the euro and saying they don't really like it. I don't believe that the advent of notes and coins is really the important thing, the important thing is is the euro going to be good for Europe and good for Britain. The fact that you can use it in a few shops - you've always been able to pay in Oxford Street with yen and dollars - and the fact that 30 out of 300 Marks & Spencers branches will take the odd euro doesn't make any difference. And I must say they weren't much cop when I went to Oxford Street yesterday and asked if I could pay in euros, they'd never heard of them.

DAVID FROST: And had you some in your pocket ready?

LORD LAMONT: They told me I could buy them upstairs.

DAVID FROST: You could buy them upstairs. And in fact, of course, Mr Brok there was saying it will lead to further integration, which would worry you.

LORD LAMONT: Well I think that is right and proposals are all the time being aired for further integration, for more taxation in common, for an elected president of the European Union. This train just isn't stopping, it goes on and on and on. And undoubtedly the single currency - rightly or wrongly, I'm not saying it necessarily logically follows - but it will be used as an argument for more integration.

DAVID FROST: Leon, what about the point that everybody says that look here, Britain's being damned well outside the euro, we've been doing better than anyone inside the euro, our projections are better than those of anyone inside the euro, why can't we carry on doing just what we're doing at the moment, we're doing great?

LORD BRITTAN: Well it depends on whether you take a long term view or a short term view. Of course, in the context of the last year, that's true, but we're talking about a tradition that goes for longer than that and if you believe that the people who've introduced the euro have done so for serious economic reasons, that it's going to help the European economy by breaking down barriers, by making it all much more transparent and the downward pressure on cost, by enabling there to be a restructuring of European industry which there has been, all that means is that over a period of time Europe, continental Europe, the euro zone, is gaining advantages that we are not getting and sooner or later the price will paid. Now take for example, also the question of inward investment in this country, the warning signs are already there, France has, in certain measures, overtaken us as far as inward investment is concerned. Why? Because countries in the Far East and companies in Europe as well, and in the United States, want us as a launching pad for Europe and if we are a semi-detached member of the European Union then they won't come to Britain in the same way. And we've had public warnings of this, again and again and again.

DAVID FROST: But I mean the -

LORD BRITTAN: The chickens haven't come home to roost but they're gathering pretty rapidly.

DAVID FROST: The chickens and the turkeys and all the -

LORD LAMONT: Well I'd, I'd have thought where the sky is dark with the chickens coming home to roost is Germany. Germany is in recession, Germany is partly in recession because it's got the wrong interest rate. Germany needs lower interest rates and it can't have them because you have to have an average rate of interest set for the whole of Europe. The truth is, the one-size-fit-all interest rate doesn't fit. The shoe doesn't fit the foot and the foot is going to be bent until it conforms with the shoe. And that's the truth of it. Leon says if this is being done for economic reasons, it is primarily being done, as Romano Prodi said this week very frankly, for political reasons. He said, this is about politics not economics. That was what he said. And this, this is being done because it is part of a vision of a united Europe.

LORD BRITTAN: What he said -

DAVID FROST: Is that true? That is true, it's political as much as economic -

LORD BRITTAN: Nonsense. There are both, both factors. You don't do a thing like this if it's economically harmful, unless, and you won't do it unless you think it's economically good, but of course there are political motives as well. For example, the political motive that led to half the countries of Europe changing their economies for the better in order to be able to join the euro was a very sound one. Now Norman talks about moves towards integration, the fact of the matter is the train's going, we're on the train already, we're members of the European Union, and it therefore matters to us what direction it takes. And we want to have as much influence as possible and if we stay out of the euro - quite apart from the economic damage that people can lose through the loss of investment, it's already the case that prices are 16 per cent higher in this country than in Europe, it's already the case that we are at risk in these things - we will lose the influence. And the question of how far Europe goes, the question of the area of integration, is an open question.

DAVID FROST: All right, let me -

LORD BRITTAN: It's an open question, and we can play our role that much better if we are full-hearted participants.

DAVID FROST: Let me look ahead for a moment, what do you both feel will be the situation in, let us say, ten years' time? Do you suspect by that time, Norman, we will have joined the single currency?

LORD LAMONT: I don't. I firmly believe that the British people will continue to say no. It is true that polls show that the British people, while being firmly opposed, sometimes also say that they think we will join despite their being opposed to it. That is because they believe that governments and politicians will somehow hassle them, bamboozle them into joining this thing against their will. I think it's warmer outside, it's better outside. I think when Leon talks about influence, this is the temptation all the time, in order to have influence do something that's against your own interests - that doesn't make any sense. As long as the British economy continues to do well - and we've done better than Europe - if in ten years' time our record compares well with Europe, I'm sure that Britain will continue to stay outside - and prosper, just as Canada prospers having a separate currency from the United States.

LORD BRITTAN: I don't think -

DAVID FROST: In ten years' time - the question that Norman just answered, Leon?

LORD BRITTAN: I think we'll - I think we'll be in. I think people will see that it's in our interests to be in. We're already saying that we may be doing wonderfully but even the eurosceptic Conservative Party is sending its shadow ministers all the way round Europe to see how they can improve and learn from Europe with regard to public services, which was regarded as the central point by both political parties in the political debate. So, we're not just saying that everything's wonderful here, in this central area we're looking to Europe, that we'll be in.

DAVID FROST: Thank you both very much indeed.

INTERVIEW ENDS


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