Major celebrates the turning point: Prime Minister says UK is winning the arguments in Europe as Maastricht debate draws to a close

JOHN MAJOR emerged last night from the economic and political battlefields of recession and Maastricht legislation, declaring that recovery had begun and the British were winning the arguments in Europe.

With unemployment falling for a second successive month, the final day of the hard-fought Commons committee stage on Maastricht drawing to a close, and county council elections and the Newbury by-election just a fortnight away, Mr Major told ITN: 'We are beginning now to see the recovery.'

And he said in a BBC television interview: 'Things are certainly getting quite sharply better.'

However, the Prime Minister's optimism was tinged with caution on the need for growth in the manufacturing base - which he returns to in a speech this weekend - and action on a balance of payments deficit that had prompted earlier warnings from John Smith and Paddy Ashdown.

In the Commons, the Labour leader said the continuing high level of unemployment was partly a reflection of persistent underinvestment in manufacturing and skills training, and a dangerously high balance of payments deficit.

Mr Ashdown, the Liberal Democrats' leader, told a Westminster press conference that substantial recovery, together with the 'terrifying trade deficit', could create a resurgence of inflation and a return to the boom-bust economic cycle.

Although the Prime Minister roused his side of the House with a denunciation of Mr Smith's warning as so much 'whinge', he later told the BBC that the Government did need to address the balance of payments question, and that unemployment was indeed still too high.

'What we are seeking to do is to ensure that we have a sustainable base for lasting recovery and a growing manufacturing base as well,' he said. 'That is why two years ago we set as the essential necessity for the future, low and stable inflation. When we have achieved that, we said that recovery would begin. It looks as though we have.' On Europe, Mr Major told Channel Four News that Commons rows over Maastricht had created a negative and damaging impression in the public mind.

In an effort to counteract that, he said in a later speech that the importance of Brussels centralisers was diminishing, and attacked Westminster defeatists who tried to make people's flesh creep with fears that Britain would always lose EC arguments.

Addressing the Conservative Group for Europe at a London meeting, Mr Major said: 'The Single Market was a British idea; breaking open state monopolies was a British idea; CAP reform, and enlargement have been British goals.'

He told ITN that the Government had won all those battles, and asked: 'Why should people always be so fearful that Britain will lose the important arguments in Europe? History shows that we don't. We're the British. We should be a good deal more confident . . . .

'Push aside many of the artificial fears and worries and concerns, many of which have nothing to do with the Maastricht treaty, and a good deal to do with other frustrations that people have about Europe.'

Those frustrations, he said in his speech, related to a sharing of sovereignty with what his opponents classed as 'ruddy foreigners'. Mr Major said that his critics were 'clanking' around in suits of armour while trying to impose a 'despotism of nostalgia' on the country.

However, Mr Ashdown said the 26-strong rebel rump of MPs in the Tory ranks had made so much trouble for Mr Major over Maastricht that they could not be dismissed so lightly; they now formed a minority party in their own right.

'We have seen a minority Government in action; a hung Parliament in action' - and he added that the Liberal Democrats had provided the majority to get the Bill through.

Speech details, page 8

Leading article, page 21

(Photograph omitted)

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
life
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
News
i100
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
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

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: randstad education are curre...

Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: You must:- Speak English as a first lang...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: If you are a committed Te...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style