Thatcher fans the flames

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The Independent Online
BARONESS Thatcher, throwing fuel on to the political flames engulfing her successor, yesterday hailed the collapse of European monetary co-operation as a chance for Britain to take back its 'economic destiny' and repudiate federalism and the Maastricht Treaty.

In a speech dripping with personal relish at the prospect of the demise of a system for which she has never hidden her disdain, the former Prime Minister declared that not only should Britain remain outside the European exchange rate mechanism but that the mechanism itself should be abandoned. Floating currency rates should be embraced, she said, in a Europe of loosely co-operating states.

'If you try to buck the market, the market will buck you,' she told a conference of business leaders here. 'In the end, reality was bound to burst through these barriers - and this week Britain resumed control of its own economic destiny.'

Lady Thatcher, who took Britain into the ERM two years ago, went on in her speech to offer hollow 'congratulations' to Mr Major and Norman Lamont for 'taking off this economic strait-jacket'. She spoke sarcastically of the 'minsterial shouting across the exchanges' that trying to manage the ERM has brought in recent days.

However in a clear criticism of the Government's handling of last week's crisis, when pounds 10bn of Britain's reserves were spent trying to defend sterling, Lady Thatcher said that she was clear of the need to 'to alter the parity rather than pour out reserves'.

As for today's referendum in France, Lady Thatcher left no doubt about how she thought the French should vote. Reiterating her attachment to General de Gaulle's historic appeal for a Europe of nation states - Europe des Patries - she asked: 'Is it to be a Europe des Bureaux? Or a Europe des Patries? The Europe of Delors? Or the Europe of de Gaulle?'