John Major will today launch a concerted effort to reunify his Cabinet by calling on its 22 members to close ranks on the single currency and other divisive European issues. He will assert his authority during today's Cabinet meeting by ordering ministers to stop conducting a public debate on the merits of monetary union, saying it is an issue for a future Parliament.
The Prime Minister will tell the Cabinet that his demand for a self- denying ordinance by ministers is in tune with the clear message given him by the restive executive of the backbench 1922 Committee this week.
Mr Major's call also follows a day of market turbulence on Tuesday which showed every sign of having been exacerbated by divisions within the Government on Europe.
Some ministers have been urging Mr Major to do more to end public squabbling. One said that Cabinet members should respond in interviews to questions about the single currency "by courteously saying nothing".
Mr Major will remind ministers he has ruled out participation in a single currency in 1996-7, while holding out the possibility of a referendum on joining one after that.
Mr Major's move comes after Jacques Santer, President of the European Commission, yesterday unveiled the Commission's plans for this year, including a Green Paper laying out the path to a single currency. Speaking to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Mr Santer said: "The timetable has been agreed. I am simply asking that we stick to it." His programme also contains a commitment to eliminate border controls, with Commission officials saying that legislation is likely to be introduced this year despite British resistance.
Although Charles Wardle added to the political instability of recent days over EU immigration policy, the issue that provoked Tuesday night's approach to Mr Major from the 1922 Committee was the ministerial interventions after the Prime Minister insisted that EMU was a "constitutional" and economic issue.
In sharply contrasting terms Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, then told the European Movement that it was quite possible to have monetary without political union - only to be rebuked by Michael Portillo, the Employment Secretary.
There were signs yesterday that both Mr Clarke's robustly pro-European remarks, and those of Michael Heseltine the previous weekend, came partly in response to government colleagues anxious to counter Euro-scepticism.
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