Britain and Europe 

Thatcher, Margaret  

Text of the Prime Minister's speech at Bruges on 20th September 1988. - London : Conservative Political Centre



Margaret Thatcher (British, born 13 October 1925 - died 8 April 2013) was leader of the British Conservative Party from 1975 and Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990. Her strong neo-liberal convictions led her to champion profound reforms to British foreign, economic and social policy that are still influential and controversial today. Her policies of deregulation, privatisation of state-owned companies and flexible labour market became known as Thatcherism. Due to her approach and style she acquired the nickname, 'the Iron Lady'.


Margaret Thatcher was a guest speaker at the Opening Ceremony of the Bruges Campus of the College of Europe in 1988, invited to speak about Britain and Europe.

In this famous speech she expressed her reservations about the course of European integration. Nevertheless she stressed that Britain's destiny is within the European Community, which should not, however, exist for its own sake but contribute to the prosperity and security of its people.

Mrs Thatcher outlined five guiding principles for the future of Europe: 1) willing cooperation between sovereign states, without concentration of power in Brussels; 2) a practical approach to problems by reforming ineffective policies, as was done in the case of the Common Agricultural Policy by cutting the agriculture budget and introducing tighter budgetary discipline; 3) developing more enterprise-friendly policies by removing barriers, introducing more deregulation and removing constraints on trade, to help the creation of the Single European Market; 4) Europe open to the world by removing barriers to trade; and 5) maintaining the defence of Europe through NATO.

Her speech inspired the establishment of a British eurosceptic think tank, The Bruges Group, in 1990, which is considered the beginning of the eurosceptic movement in the UK.