“I want to refund my money”

“What I want, Mr. Palmer, is very simple: I want my money back.” (“I want to refund my money”). Dublin, Friday 30 November 1979: When the summit of the heads of state and government of the nine countries of the European Community ended in apparent failure, Margaret Thatcher was questioned by a journalist from guardian, shakes the calm atmosphere of the great masses of society and unleashes a formula that will spread throughout the world and cause one of the major crises in the history of European construction. To say the least about the British Prime Minister’s equation is frankness and simplicity. England pays more than it gets from the European budget. Therefore, it is necessary and as soon as possible to correct this defect and restore what belongs to it. No more, no less.

“Rodomontades”, he seems to believe his associates. Certain of their strength, experience and wit, French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt believe they will cut short the business of this grocer’s daughter, who arrived at work a few months ago. Participation in its first European summit. Fatal mistake: the crisis will last nearly five years and will end on June 26, 1984 in Fontainebleau with the complete victory of “Maggie”. Meanwhile, referee will leave Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in 1981 and Helmut Schmidt in 1982.

“This is the typical case where we all get it wrong” today recognizes the Belgian Etienne Davignon, member and then Vice-President of the European Commission from 1977 to 1985. Our first mistake he explains, He was the first to think that what we did at six would be good for the countries that joined us later. The second mistake, still according to Etienne Davignon: the lack of pragmatism: “It was clear to everyone that the British contribution to the European budget was very high, but to change the keys to the distribution you had to touch the founding principles, and no one dared to make a decision.”

Wrong, then, in the real case of Great Britain. Entering the European Community after serious procrastination on both sides, the British expected that their economy would be boosted by the opening of a large market. Naturally the expected benefits were to offset the bill to be paid to the European budget, and then were devoted primarily to financing the Common Agricultural Policy, of which the French were the main beneficiaries. “We had the budget note but without the economic benefits because our main industries, like cars or steel for example, were in complete decline” Today, a British expert explains.

Fault on the person, last and foremost. “Many believed that Margaret Thatcher, representative of the middle classes, would take care mainly of internal affairs and leave us to the rest. And since she had chosen a foreign minister who was considered pro-European (Lord Carrington)We felt calm.” remembers Mr. Davignon.

Margaret Thatcher was also pro-European. Or at least it was considered so. In May 1979, Chancellor Schmidt received in London, got everything and announced that Great Britain’s accession to the European Economic Community was ‘Good thing for Europe and Great Britain’ . unanimously, We can read in the world On July 4, 1979 Mme Thatcher entered Europe successfully. At the same time, referring to the question of the British contribution to the European budget, the French Foreign Minister, Jean-François Poncet, contented himself with declaring: “The nine decided to discuss this matter with an open mind.” In short, at the beginning of November, the Dublin Summit was announced under Better Sponsorship.

Gradually, the British Prime Minister will increase the pressure. On November 2, during an official visit to Bonn, she tried in vain to convince Helmut Schmidt of the veracity of her claims. On the 20th, in London, his talks with the French president were interrupted. On the 26th, it was the President of the European Commission, Britain’s Roy Jenkins, who faced the insistence of his compatriot. This finds that the proposals are known to be insufficient–they were judged nonetheless “generous” By Valérie Giscard d’Estaing – What the Commission has just done to lighten the bill for Great Britain. Basically, the Brussels executive proposes to reduce the British deficit by about 3 billion francs, that is, close to 9 billion. “It’s not even half a loaf” loose Margaret Thatcher.

She also knows that she can count on her public opinion, which is fervently heated by a few particularly rowdy journalists. So John Palmer. Reporter in Brussels guardianIt was he who set the gunpowder on fire. A year earlier, on November 13, 1978 to be exact, he had “issued” a secret report from British treasury experts that predicted that the bill London would have to pay would have to be much larger than expected. In the event of a dispute in Dublin, some commentators in London believe that M.me Thatcher, like de Gaulle in 1965, could decide the “empty chair policy” that would cripple European unity. A poll very aptly published on November 28 showed that 40% of Britons would like their country to leave the European Economic Community ifme Thatcher was not satisfied.

However, in the late afternoon of Thursday, November 29, when the nine heads of state and government met at Dublin Castle, hope for a compromise was still on the agenda. After all, Europe has already shown enough creative imagination to hope for a new explosion.

Very quickly, as soon as the first pleasantries are exchanged, we realize that no compromise seems possible, since the positions of Great Britain seem far from those of its eight partners. The virtues of Irish cuisine, which is served at dinner, such as discussions in the evening, which often lead to reconciliation, are of little help on that evening. We’ll go to bed on the statement of complete disagreement.

Friday will only confirm this fact. The discussions, which last two hours longer than expected, only serve to avert an open crisis. Without an appointment, we still promise to meet again.

Let’s meet again, we will meet again! From Dublin to Fontainebleau, from November 30, 1979 to June 26, 1984, nine, who became ten after Greece’s accession, worked endlessly on the British contribution file. And Britain’s partners face, month after month, meeting after meeting, summit after summit, Margaret Thatcher’s stubborn refusal to accept the slightest compromise. If an agreement was signed in Brussels on May 31, 1980, it is immediately called into question, at the end of March 1981 in Maastricht. And so on.

Among other compliments, Helmut Schmidt compares “Maggie” to a rhinoceros, and citing the photo, Labor Party official Dennis Healy told the House of Commons: “She has thick, impenetrable skin, is able to charge in all directions and is always thinking about trotting.” During the first quarter of an hour of conversation, Etienne Davignon says, She was sizing you up, and there you had to stand up to her gently and firmly. If you pass the first test, she will lean back in her chair, and the discussion can begin. “

François Mitterrand inherited the file in 1981. In London as in Paris, it is believed that this New Deal is likely to favor a European settlement. Soon he will be disappointed. Maggie still wants her “money” and it’s not a change of tenant at the Elysee that might distract her from her goal. The crisis came to a head in May 1982 when Great Britain refused any compromise over its contribution to the budget and objected to the application of agricultural prices. During a layover in Algiers, the French president, more than ever, went so far as to ask a public question about existence or nature (The) The presence of Great Britain in society . Maggie don’t care. If his European partners begin to lose patience, his compatriots appreciate his stubbornness. On 9 June 1983, the Conservative Party, after a general election, gained its strongest representation in the House of Commons since the war. Ten days later, at the summit of Stuttgart, François Mitterrand, tired of Germidad, called Margaret Thatcher, annoyed: “Ah, madam, you are not only poor!” The ten met in December in Athens, and they broke up with an undeniable fiasco. We don’t even try to keep up with appearances. “Europe knows very clearly that it is in crisis.” The French president notes.

The latter, when the French presidency began in January 1984, knew he had six months to save Europe, which was now at the center of his concerns. It makes it personal. The European Commission, headed by Luxembourgist Gaston Thorne, is putting on the table special generous proposals for the United Kingdom: compensation of about 7 billion francs for five years, with the possibility of increasing this amount even more as a bonus. The evolution of the British contribution. Mme Thatcher refuses.

The Last Chance Summit opened in Fontainebleau on Monday 25 June, five days before the end of the French presidency. Because she probably knows that there is time for everything, even to say yes, because she feels that her partners have come to an end, and that they, if necessary, will continue without her, M.me On Tuesday, June 26, Thatcher accepted proposals broadly similar to those made by Brussels. Even less useful, according to some experts. Don’t bother with scams: Maggie got a big check. “No winner, no loser” as the French say, a way to hide their disappointment because they had, in spite of everything, go under the Caudines forks of M.me Thatcher. “You made us all tired” Comments today, a senior French official who participated in all European battles.

With the release of the English lock, European construction will resume its march forward. French Socialist Jacques Delors was appointed President of the European Commission with the approval of Margaret Thatcher, who preferred him to Claude Chaison, former Minister of Foreign Relations of François Mitterrand. He worked hard and his efforts resulted in the entry into force of the Single Act in 1Verse July 1987.

Gradually, Maggie loses her aura. Inside and out, her extremism began to tire. She came out in the vote within her own party, and was replaced by John Major in November 1990. She continued to criticize Europe, even claiming that she signed the Single Act after a conspiracy by some diplomats. from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In October 2002, Jacques Chirac recalls his good memories by questioning the check given to Fontainebleau. Since the British economy is now one of the union’s most dynamic countries, shouldn’t the methods laid out in 1984 be reconsidered?

Même si elle a décidé de ne plus s’exprimer en public, on croit entendre celle qui fut la Dame de fer dire de sa voix haut perchée que tout cela n’est pas très convenable et qu’elle n’a aucune intention de rendre “his money”. Hard earned money.

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