Britain's European Crisis: Major's authority in question: If Britain accepts the compromise plan

IF THE Cabinet accepts the 'compromise' today, it will not alter the fact that John Major will emerge from the latest European dispute with his authority as Prime Minister and Conservative leader badly damaged and his party as split as ever.

The prospect of protest resignations from unhappy Cabinet right-wingers was being played down yesterday.

But the evident switch in tone has left a number of Tory backbenchers with less to lose, feeling they have been marched up the hill and back down again.

According to one MP, some colleagues had made 'no-surrender' constituency speeches last weekend, with the implication that they were prepared to vote against the autumn Bill to ratify the enlargement of the European Union. That could be a fruitless protest, as Labour plans to support it.

But that is far from saying that disenchanted backbenchers will henceforth keep their concerns to themselves, especially perhaps those who loyally trooped into the lobbies during the Maastricht Bill only to see, as one MP put it, 'power given away at the first opportunity'.

Twice yesterday, Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, emphasised that qualified majority voting had a role - for example when it came to reforming the Common Agricultural Policy - while there were suggestions from some ministerial sources that backbenchers had not given him too hard a time.

But David Evans, a Major loyalist and a member of the backbench 1922 Committee executive, said: 'By giving in instead of standing firm, John Major will be more, not less, damaged in the eyes of the public and the party.'

Hard-line Tory anti-Europeans were equally adamant that the so-called 'root-and-branch' reform in 1996 will not be effective in unravelling a decision to stay with a qualified majority of 27, because that would require unanimity.

If Mr Major believes that will not be frequently thrown back in his face, from tomorrow onwards, he is probably travelling very hopefully indeed.

In the midst of the latest posturings over 'social' legislation, moreover, is yet another Maastricht opt-out ticking time bomb.

Labour resolved at its last conference to attempt to force the adoption of the Social Chapter at the next opportunity.

The likely occasion will be the Bill to enact the 'own resources' agreement, increasing Britain's EU contributions.

It is at that point, if not before, that the Tories' sub-clinical disease could again break out into raging fever.

There is one consolation for Mr Major, however, if the deal is done. Mr Hurd will not resign. On the contrary, he is keen to stay on this year and believes there is much to be achieved.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration Engineer

£24000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: These refrigeration specialists...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Logistics and Supply Chain

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an operational role and...

Recruitment Genius: CNC Sheet Metal Worker / Fabricator

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working within the workshop of ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st / 2nd Line IT Support Engineer

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist high tech compa...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral