THE SINGLE CURRENCY DEBATE : Major has the social chapter in his sights

Europe divided: Conservative leaders go on the offensive, arguing against greater integration and the social chapter

John Major will risk causing new divisions with Britain's European partners today by using a visit to Brussels to launch a pre-election attack on the social chapter.

The Prime Minister will attack Labour's proposal to end Britain's opt- out from the chapter at a European Policy Forum business conference. Mr Major will warn that the social chapter is anti- competitive, and deregulated Britain is a magnet for inward investment.

The speech may play well at home, but it is unlikely to impress other European leaders. Alain Juppe, the French prime minister, said after his meeting with Mr Major in London yesterday that the social chapter was not an obstacle to job creation in France .

"I think there is no relation or no link between those elements ... our main objective to create jobs in France is to consolidate our budget and financial situation," Mr Juppe said.

After the meeting, the Tories' election campaign took a Euro-sceptic turn with the launch of a poster proclaiming: "New Labour. Euro Danger".

Tory sources said the poster attacked Labour rather than Europe, and that it was meant to highlight the party's plan to sign up to the social chapter.

However, coming immediately after comments by Labour's foreign-affairs spokesman, Robin Cook, that Britain could join the single currency by 2002, it struck a rather different note.

The poster, which features a lion with a red tear-drop, was unveiled by the party chairman, Brian Mawhinney, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Heseltine. It claims that the social chapter could cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and could put Britain's prosperity at risk.

Mr Heseltine said Labour would introduce a minimum wage and trade-union reforms which would undermine the country's competitiveness. The party was also fudging the issue of the single currency, he claimed, and Mr Cook was trying to avoid difficult election issues by "kicking the whole thing into the next century".

Mr Major believes the Conservatives should promote themselves as the party that stands up for Britain's interests in Europe, party sources say. They add that the poster initiative has the backing of the entire Cabinet, including the pro-European Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke.

"We are the party that you can rely on to negotiate and decide in Britain's best interest about the European single currency. The issues are about this election and whether we're going to fight for Britain in this election campaign," Mr Heseltine said.

But Mr Cook said yesterday that Europe should be an association of free states, coming together not to surrender sovereignty but to co-operate in the common interest.

While there were "formidable problems about joining a single currency", Britain would face long-term penalties if it stayed out, he said.

"It would be very interesting to know if Conservative politicians are prepared to say that `yes if it goes ahead, yes if it proves a success, if the single currency is strong, we'll still stay out on a matter of principle'."

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home