DUBLIN SUMMIT: Major prepares for final conflict

THE SHOWDOWN

As John Major headed for Dublin for probably his last showdown at a European summit, Tony Blair, the Labour leader, was already there, forging ties and preparing to take his seat on the European stage.

Today Mr Major is expected to clash with his partners during discussions on a draft treaty on European reform. He is expected to oppose possible changes to the treaty, including suggestions that border controls be dropped and qualified majority voting increased. He will also come under new pressure on the single currency.

Last night, as negotiations on the "stability pact" went late into the night, European finance ministers were expected to reach a compromise in time for today's full summit meeting. Germany appeared isolated as it continued to insist on the severest of rules and fines for countries that disobey single-currency rules after the launch. However, diplomats said sufficient political will existed on all sides to ensure a last-minute deal on the pact was done.

Failure to finalise rules for the stability pact would increase doubts about whether Europe's leadership can maintain the drive towards monetary union. It would also cause turmoil in the markets.

Also in Dublin today the design of euro banknotes will be unveiled by the European Monetary Institute, the European central-bank-in-waiting, a move intended to boost the single-currency project and capture the imagination of the public.

While clashes between Mr Major and other leaders seem inevitable, Britain's partners know it is more likely to be Mr Blair than Mr Major who will decide whether to take Britain into the single currency and who will be signing the EU reform treaty on behalf of Britain. Signing is due at the Amsterdam summit in June, after the British election. The decision on whether to join the first wave of EMU must be taken by early 1998.

In the first real sign that Mr Blair is launching shadow negotiations with Britain's European partners, he flew to Dublin for a meeting of Socialist leaders, the first time he has attended such a gathering since becoming Labour leader.

He also held talks last night with Wim Kok, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, who will become a key figure in treaty-reform talks when the Netherlands takes over the EU presidency next month. He is believed to have questioned Mr Blair on Labour's position on further integration. European leaders have fudged the most controversial reform, such as a reduction in the national veto, because they know Mr Major would say "no" before the election.

Mr Blair, determined not to be seen to be giving in to European demands, and thereby playing into Conservative hands, was expected last night to reaffirm that Labour would, like Mr Major, oppose the most integrationist plans.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?