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Thatcher Accused Of Insularity And Xenophobia

September 21, 1988

LONDON (AP) _ Opposition parties and commentators today criticized Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for a speech the day before, accusing her of insularity and xenophobia and reminding her that ″she is not the Empress of Europe.″

Most expressed fears that Mrs. Thatcher has damaged Britain’s role in the 12-nation European Community with Tuesday’s speech, in which she rejected moves to centralize power or attempts to ″suppress nationhood.″

″The prime minister must learn to hold her tongue and not treat Europeans to her own inimitable brand of foghorn diplomacy,″ said Labor foreign affairs spokesman George Foulkes.

Britain’s main opposition urged Mrs. Thatcher to ″remember that she is not the Empress of Europe.″

The centrist Social and Liberal Democratic Party said Mrs. Thatcher in the speech in Bruges, Belgium, demonstrated ″xenophobia in velvet gloves.″

″She brings to the issues of European cooperation all the finesse of a soccer hooligan on the rampage,″ said party leader Paddy Ashdown.

Mrs. Thatcher, at the start of a visit to three Common Market countries, attacked what she sees as unrealistic visions of a United States of Europe and warned against more centralized control when the community drops trade barriers. These are due to fall in 1992 with the creation of a single European market.

″We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain only to see them reimposed at a European level,″ she said.

″To try to suppress nationhood and concentrate power at the center of a European conglomerate would be highly damaging ... Europe would be stronger precisely because it has France as France, Spain as Spain, Britain as Britain, each with its own European personality,″ she added.

Mrs. Thatcher expressed similar sentiments in Luxembourg today. She was to go to Spain later in the day.

Aides said she intended to use the trip to spell out British policy on the Community as 1992 nears.

British newspapers accused Mrs. Thatcher of worsening Britain’s image in the Common Market, where Britain is widely regarded as giving higher priority to its special relationship with the United States than to Western Europe.

Under a headline, ″The Same Shrunken Vision of Europe,″ the Independent, an independent London daily, said Mrs. Thatcher’s speech sounded like a replay of old World War II movies.

In an editorial, the Independent said, ″For all her travels abroad and pretentions to international statesmanship, Mrs. Thatcher remains at heart a Little Englander. The concept of a united Europe is alien to her.″

The liberal Guardian newspaper said Mrs. Thatcher, in power since 1979 and the longest serving leader in Western Europe, remained ″an English nationalist″ defending a past world which would win easy votes.

The Times of London said Mrs. Thatcher was right to argue that a more united Europe should mean less centralization and regulation.

Britain’s tabloid, popular newspapers, traditionally cooler towards the European Community than the high-brow dailies, reported Mrs. Thatcher’s speech under headlines such as, ″Thatcher Scorns Identikit Europe, ″We Stay British″ and ″Euro-Maggie Spells It Out.″

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