Major rules out save-the-pound campaign

Election Countdown
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The Independent Online
John Major yesterday ruled out any hardening of the Tories' "wait-and- see" approach to the single European currency before polling day and made it more difficult for the Tories to play the Euro-sceptic card in an attempt to pull off a general election coup against Tony Blair.

Mr Major warned that the pound would rise in value, damaging Britain's exports, if Britain at this stage opted out of a single European currency. His remarks will dismay some Tory Euro-sceptics who believe their campaign to "save the pound" is the only way to save the party from defeat by Labour.

John Redwood, whose book attacking the single currency will be published today, was campaigning in Wolverhampton yesterday with Euro-sceptic Nicholas Budgen, and rejected the Prime Minister's stance. The former Secretary of State for Wales and past challenger for his leadership, said: "I am in a different position. I am a backbencher, wishing to help public debate in trying to persuade the Government [that] when it makes up its mind final- ly, it makes up its mind by saying no."

Mr Major, campaigning in Birmingham, said: "What we have made clear is we will be there negotiating the single currency to protect Britain's interests. No British prime minister can properly opt out of those negotiations and be in a position to protect British interests."

He said that if a weak euro was created, countries putting their money into Europe would target the two remaining strong currencies; the Swiss franc and sterling.

At Labour's London press conference, the shadow Chancellor, Gordon Brown, said Mr Major would become the prisoner of his Euro-sceptics, if a Tory government was re-elected.

Publishing a list of 132 Tory MPs and candidates .defying the party line on Europe, he said: "A re-elected Conservative Party would be ungovernable and, in the words of the Chancellor, incapable of being led."