What would Margaret Thatcher be doing about Europe?

by Lord Renwick of Clifton Robin Renwick was one of […]

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by Lord Renwick of Clifton

Robin Renwick was one of Mrs Thatcher’s senior foreign policy advisers. He worked at the highest level on some of the great issues of the day: EU negotiations, the Falklands, the release of Nelson Mandela and the conclusion of the Cold War. On 21st November he addressed a New Direction event in London on the hypothetical subject of what a Thatcher government would be doing about Europe today. This paper is based on that speech.

In Lord Renwick’s view, Margaret Thatcher would:

  • Withdraw the United Kingdom from the European Convention on Human Rights and re-patriate human rights legislation on the grounds that, having invented human rights, Britain does not need a group of judges in Strasbourg to tell it how to apply them.
  • Campaign on the theme that “Europe isn’t working”, and is failing a whole generation of young job seekers, she would exploit the Europe-wide groundswell of resistance to yet further over-regulation from Brussels and increasingly intrusive interventions by the EU authorities in the affairs of member countries to seek to achieve a new balance of powers between the EU and member states.
  • Seek to arrest and reverse the tidal wave of new regulation emanating from Brussels by insisting that a sunset clause should apply to all new and existing EU regulation which would be subject to periodic review and could not be carried forward without a full justification of costs and benefits.
  • Propose that a blanket exemption should apply to small and medium enterprises, which are the main generators of growth and employment in the EU, save in respect of fundamental health, safety and environmental requirements.
  • Insist on reform of all directives impeding job creation Europe-wide.
  • In the new two-tier Europe that has resulted from the development of the eurozone, she would want precise guarantees against discrimination by the eurozone vis-a-vis other EU members.
  • State the view that, in the absence of reforms of this kind, Europe will remain for the foreseeable future the highest cost and lowest growth economic region in the world.
  • She would be conscious that the process of leaving the EU would create serious economic uncertainty, affecting inward investment, and would diminish Britain’s influence in the world. She would consider, however, that while the attractions are obvious for the UK to remain in a reformed EU, they are far less obvious if it remains unreformed.
  • In pursuit of a reform agenda, she would expect to receive support from the German Chancellor, from the Dutch and Swedish governments and from many in eastern Europe.
  • She would commission a review of energy policy to ensure pursuit of the goal of reducing emissions in an affordable manner and one which does not further destroy Europe’s competitiveness vis-a-vis the US, China and India. She regarded on-shore wind farms as an uneconomic environmental disaster. She would pursue these objectives with sufficiently high energy to marginalise UKIP in the European and UK elections until the outcome of the reform effort was known. She would regard deferring this effort until after the next election as bound to fail, both domestically and in Europe.


  • Angela Merkel has declared that: “An economy that is no longer competitive will deny people prosperity. It is wrong to assume any longer that Europe is regarded as a model for others”.
  • Robert Zoellick, as head of the World Bank, stated that “Europe’s leaders have failed to comprehend just how rapidly Europe’s stature is seen as diminishing in the rest of the world”.
  • The President of the Commission has declared that: “We must remove unnecessary burdens on business in order to unleash jobs and growth…… not everything needs a European solution. Europe must focus on where it can add most value and not meddle elsewhere”. Yet the Commission currently is proposing a new spate of regulation, including fifty new directives in the financial sector alone.
  • The Governor of the Bank of France has denounced the Commission’s proposed Financial Transaction Tax as likely “to trigger a massive off-shoring of jobs and so damage the economy as a whole”.

Click here to read the report in full.

Source: New Direction

New Direction – The Foundation for European Reform is a free market think-tank established in Brussels in 2010 to add innovative ideas and encourage reform efforts in Europe. Together with a strong network of partner think tanks around Europe, New Direction produces original and relevant research papers focusing on the most pressing issues in the area of economic growth, competition, financial regulation, energy security, taxation, agricultural policy, bureaucracy and EU institutional affairs.


The views expressed on austriancenter.com are not necessarily those of the Austrian Economics Center.

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