Britain bends to toe the community line

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher came home from the European summit last weekend to hear praise for her political flexibility and for avoiding a crisis among West European leaders. Despite some criticism for compromising on Mrs. Thatcher's well-known opposition to continued high spending on agriculture, the Brussels agreement has generally been welcomed in Britain as a first step toward letting free-market principles reign in the interlocked economies of Western Europe.

Defending her decision, Thatcher told Parliament yesterday that ``Our achievement is in securing effective control of farm spending.''

The British Prime Minister argued that agricultural surpluses and spending on subsidies would be reduced in the long term and that the agreement was in the best interests of the European community as a whole.

The stiffest criticism has come from the opposition Labour Party. The opposition spokesman for European affairs, George Robertson, said ``the Iron Lady has melted under pressure'' after waging a tough campaign against what she insisted were excessively high production levels in agriculture.

Thatcher said her acceptance of the reform package on agricultural policies and budget financing was conditional on agreement at a meeting next week in Brussels on production levels and price-cutting arrangements.

The Financial Times wrote that while the agreement was not in itself a good one, it was the best Thatcher could get and shows Britain's acceptance of the fact that France and Germany are the backbone of the community.

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