Major faces Cabinet split if he loses Maastricht vote

JOHN MAJOR is facing a Cabinet split over the tactics the Government should adopt if it is defeated in Parliament over Maastricht. A defeat could arise if Tory rebels unite behind a Labour amendment which seeks to force the Government to accept the social chapter.

That became clear yesterday as a senior minister suggested that some pro-European members of the Government would rather see the Prime Minister reluctantly accept the social chapter after a decisive vote in Parliament than abandon the treaty altogether.

The senior minister said: 'Our own rebels should not assume that there is no risk that they will end up being held responsible for forcing the British government to adopt the social chapter.'

Any pressure within the Cabinet on Mr Major to adopt the chapter would cause the deep rift within the Government's upper echelons over Europe that Mr Major has deftly avoided since taking office in November 1990. Most ministers believe that Peter Lilley, Secretary of State for Social Security, and probably also Michael Howard, Secretary of State for the Environment, would resign rather than accept the social chapter - precipitating as many as 15 more resignations at junior ministerial level.

There is no enthusiasm for the chapter - from which Mr Major negotiated an opt-out at Maastricht, to near-unanimous acclaim from the Tory party - even among strongly pro-European members of the Cabinet. The Foreign Office is currently taking legal advice on the impact of the amendment and some senior ministers are confident, first that it will not be passed, and second that even if it is it will not stop the Government ratifying the treaty, complete with the social chapter opt-out.

But the senior source said that, faced with the unpalatable choice between a treaty and including the chapter, and no treaty at all, he would argue for the latter.

The ministerial warning will be greeted with deep scepticism by the Euro-rebels, partly because of the frequent statements of outright opposition to the chapter made not only by Mr Major himself but even Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary.

They are likely to see the warning as part of a whispering campaign designed to destabilise the rebellion in the Tory ranks.

But the warning is in tune with the genuine private views of a number of government ministers who believe that the chapter is an irritant compared with the catastrophic effects on the British economy - and its international reputation - of ditching the treaty.

One minister suggested last week that there was a Commons majority in favour of the chapter, since a significant minority, at the very least, of pro-European Tory backbenchers would rather see a treaty incorporating the chapter than no treaty at all.

Is Major up to it? Pages 23-26

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect