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'."

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: Digital Designer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity for someone wi...

Recruitment Genius: Building Manager / Head Porter

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Medical Copywriter / Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Clerk / Debriefer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading temperature contro...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
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'
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