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Peter Hain MP, Europe minister
Peter Hain MP, Europe minister
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: PETER HAIN, MP Europe Minister MAY 12th, 2002

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

DAVID FROST: The Europe Minister, Peter Hain, is known to be one of the strongest pro-Euro members of the government. Last week he gave another speech on the benefits of being a member of the European Union and a need to be involved in decision making, rather than being quote "outside the room waiting for the decisions that affect you". But some would argue that's what's happening now in certain areas of negotiations, while we remain outside the single currency in the financial area particularly. Anyway, there's lots to talk to him about always and joining us now from the Cardiff studio is Peter Hain. Good morning Peter.

PETER HAIN: Good morning David, how are you?

DAVID FROST: Very well indeed.

PETER HAIN: Celebrating your cup and Premiership double I guess, are you?

DAVID FROST: Absolutely - but I thought you were very gentlemanly about it last Saturday.

PETER HAIN: Well yes, I thought Chelsea were robbed actually, but there you go.

DAVID FROST: Well I thought you might. There's a story about you on the front page, here, of the Sunday Times - Minister fears isolationist Moslems. Peter Hain, the minister for Europe, has warned that Moslem immigration to Britain, and the backlash against it, poses a greater danger than tensions arising from racial differences. Is that an accurate quote from you?

PETER HAIN: Well I just think it's a commonsense statement, echoed by, for example, the Moslem Council for Britain, which has said that we need to work much harder to integrate Moslems, in particular, with the rest of society. We very much welcome the contribution that the Moslem community makes to British culture, they enrich our culture, they're welcome here. But there is a tendency amongst a minority to isolate themselves and that leaves them vulnerable to either exploitation by Bin Laden-type extremists, Osama Bin Laden-type extremists and fanatics on the one hand, or targeting by racists and Nazis on the other. And that's why we need to work together to confront this problem and to make sure that this way in which Moslem communities enrich our culture deals with these problems of racism and extremism as well.

DAVID FROST: And at this moment you think that the tensions are definitely rising in this area?

PETER HAIN: Well there are a whole series of competing factors here - the plight of the Palestinians, who are Moslems, an historic injustice being done to the Palestinians and the continuing conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis obviously excites a great deal of anger and bitterness in the Moslem community here in Britain. Equally, we've got the situation where Moslems are being targeted by Nazi groups like the British National Party and racists and so we have to work together to make sure that we target both the racists themselves and the causes of racism. And in that respect, David, can I just refer to this Conservative councillor, Graham Sampson, in Wealdon Council in Sussex. He said he's proud to call himself a racialist and there's nothing wrong with being a racialist. I think Iain Duncan Smith should expel him from the party and anybody like him because there are many in the Conservative ranks who clearly are racists and proud to be so.

DAVID FROST: Well on the point of race and the right wing, the right wing - extreme right wing in Europe and so on - does the rise of the right, the far right, make Europe a less attractive prospect for us?

PETER HAIN: We have the phenomenon of the far right being active and threatening right across Europe. Here in Britain the British National Party, who are a Nazi-like group, gained a few seats in Burnley, and polled elsewhere better than they've done before. It's a problem in France with Le Pen, who is openly anti-Semitic, openly racist, and he, of course, knocked out the French Socialist prime minister in the first round of the presidential elections. There's a problem in Germany, a problem right across Europe, from Portugal to the Scandinavian countries. What we need to do in Europe, the leaders of Europe, is make sure we deliver better job opportunities, we make sure we deal with people's insecurity, especially when they're faced with this problem of human trafficking, of organised gangs smuggling people into Europe, and we need a much tougher stance on that.

DAVID FROST: What about the Gibraltar issue? I mean where do you stand on that - do you share Geoff Hoon's worries about the fact that sovereignty of our base will endanger our defence capacity, or lack of sovereignty?

PETER HAIN: Well one of the reasons the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, and I have been negotiating very toughly with the Spanish government, in an atmosphere of friendship but very toughly, on some of our bottom lines which, one of which is that we will retain total control over the military facilities on Gibraltar, whatever agreement is or isn't signed finally. That is an absolutely cardinal red line for us. We're united, the Foreign Office with the Ministry of Defence, and we've worked together on this over the last few weeks and we'll stay with that position. And we want to deal with the Spanish government, which ends a 300 year old dispute which has aggravated life for Gibraltarians - we want a better deal for the Gibraltar people, so that they can have genuine freedom and good relations with Spain. I think that's an objective we should all work towards but in the course of achieving that, we're not going to strike a deal which is a bad deal. We are only going to agree something which we think is in Gibraltar's interest, in Britain's interests, which preserves the right of Gibraltarians to British citizenship, their British way of life; it makes sure that they have many more opportunities for enriching their prosperity, enjoying travel opportunities that they can't at the moment, because of aggravation from Spain. All this is within reach if we can move forward but there's no disguising there are difficult issues to resolve and we may not be able to resolve them.

DAVID FROST: But will the people of Gibraltar have the veto?

PETER HAIN: They will have the final say in a referendum, yes indeed. If there is an agreement with Spain, it will only be on a set of outline proposals which will then have to be negotiated in detail with the government of Gibraltar - the chief minister Peter Caruana with businesses who are waiting to take advantage on the rock of the enormous opportunities of providing for co-operation between Spain and Gibraltar instead of this aggravation that's gone back so many years. And Gibraltar could have the leading airport in the southern Iberian peninsula, it could have the best harbour, strategically placed with ... on the Spanish side. All these fantastic opportunities lie ahead if we can put this dispute behind us - that's why we're talking with Spain to try and do that.

DAVID FROST: Well thank you very much indeed Peter, next time we hope we can welcome you to the studio here so we can supply you with some breakfast.

PETER HAIN: Thank you very much David.

INTERVIEW ENDS


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