How Boris Johnson inspired Margaret Thatcher’s defiant ‘No! No! No!’ speech with a newspaper story about plans for a European superstate
- Margaret Thatcher’s speech was inspired by a Boris Johnson newspaper story
- Thatcher was sent the article to ‘light the blue touch paper’ for the speech
- Mr Johnson was then Brussels correspondent for the Daily Telegraph
- He warned European Commission President was planning European superstate
In a defiant cry against further European integration, Margaret Thatcher declared to the Commons in 1990: ‘No, no, no’.
Her declaration, which came at a time of intense Tory divisions over Europe, was to prove a pivotal point in her premiership.
Now it has emerged that the speech was inspired by a newspaper story… written by Boris Johnson. Mrs Thatcher was sent the article by her aides to ‘light the blue touch paper’ for the speech, newly-declassified personal papers out today suggest.
Mr Johnson, who was then Brussels correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, had warned that European Commission President Jacques Delors was planning a European superstate.
In a defiant cry against further European integration, Margaret Thatcher declared to the Commons in 1990: ‘No, no, no’
His article, published on October 24, 1990, reported that the British veto over European tax laws would be axed under plans by the eurocrat.
Historians say the piece was a ‘trigger’ for Mrs Thatcher to make the famous speech railing against a European superstate that led to the headline ‘Up Yours, Delors’ in The Sun.
But it also prompted former chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe to dramatically quit as her deputy two days later – and his damning resignation speech led to her ousting. Papers released by the Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge show the story was included in Mrs Thatcher’s newspaper cuttings file of October 26 with a Foreign Office letter.
Now it has emerged that her 1990 speech was inspired by a newspaper story… written by Boris Johnson. Pictured: Thatcher and Johnson in 2008
The letter notes that Mr Johnson’s story is incorrect, but adds that Mr Delors’ plans ‘contain a lot of other horrors’.
Only four days later, on October 30, Mrs Thatcher made a show of defiance in the Commons after returning from a meeting of the European Council in Rome. Her papers reveal extensive preparations for the speech, which criticised a press conference given by Mr Delors in which he said the European Commission would become the executive arm of the European Community – later the EU – in a clear power grab.
Historian Chris Collins, of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, which is releasing the papers, said Mr Johnson’s article was a key prompt.
‘It’s part of the trigger,’ he said. ‘Clearly, it’s there to remind her to have bash at Delors.
Papers released by the Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge show the story was included in Mrs Thatcher’s newspaper cuttings file of October 26 with a Foreign Office letter
‘A lot of Conservatives would read articles like that one by Boris Johnson and say, “Yes, that’s what these guys are up to”.’
Mr Johnson’s article was included under a tab in a folder marked ‘Delors Comments’, along with the letter from the Foreign Office.
Mr Collins said: ‘As luck would have it, they fastened on this to light the blue touch paper. And it was well and truly lit.’
He added: ‘“No, no, no” is all about coming back from a very difficult, very bruising uncomfortable European Council and smashing it into the stands and just being tough and on top of them.’
The files also contain the last letter Mrs Thatcher wrote before she was forced out. Addressed to her press secretary Bernard Ingham, she thanks him ‘from the bottom of my heart, for 11 years of loyal and trusty service and companionship’.