Hague stands firm as currency row erupts
WILLIAM Hague told Michael Heseltine and Kenneth Clarke last night that ``retired Cabinet ministers'' would not change his policies as the long-threatened British Tory civil war on Europe erupted.
The Conservative leader was forced to demonstrate his grip on his party after Mr Heseltine put himself at the head of an open revolt against him. The former Deputy Prime Minister stormed back on to the political stage with a fierce denunciation of Mr Hague and his Shadow Cabinet for their hardline stance on the single currency.
Mr Hague then staged a series of interviews, insisting that he would ``stick to his guns'' on his intention to rule out the single currency for 10 years. Backbenchers were entitled to their opinion, he said: ``But our policy is decided by me, the leader, by the Shadow Cabinet, by the majority of the party and ultimately the membership of the party. It's not decided by retired Cabinet ministers.''
He added: '`It's more important to have a clear policy than to try to have a compromise which satisfies every single person in the party and represents the lowest common denominator of opinion. I'm not going to retreat into that. I'm going to pursue the policy I set out.''
He rejected Mr Heseltine's charge that he had set the party on a collision course with business, saying he had spent the day with business people who had urged him to continue on the course he had set.
Finally, he confirmed that he intended to fight the next election on a campaign against the single currency provided that was approved by party members.
It was that policy which prompted Mr Heseltine to speak out yesterday. ``You cannot in the national interest do that,'' he declared. ``Let's be absolutely clear: there is going to be a single currency. Short of nuclear war, or some event of that scale, the Europeans are going to do it. The only issue is when Britain joins, because join we will and the longer we delay, the more damage we do to our national self-interest.''
Mr Heseltine later became the chairman of the relaunched Conservative Mainstream group, which will campaign for membership of a successful single currency. Mr Clarke is on its board and will also pursue the battle through his presidency of the Tory Reform Group.
With both sides taking up such entrenched positions, senior Tories feared that the party's agony over Europe could continue right up to the general election.
Mr Heseltine's decision to come out fighting did, however, prevent one MP from defecting to Labour. Peter Temple-Morris announced that he was stay in the party to fight the European cause, but he had been only a whisker away from leaving having had several meetings with senior Labour officials.
He feared that Tory pro-Europeans were not going to fight against the Hague line but when Mr Clarke, on Wednesday, and Mr Heseltine yesterday went on the attack, he decided to remain. (The Times London)
Toby Helm writes: National symbols should be banned from euro coins, European Parliament's committee on monetary union said yesterday.
Both sides should have harmonised designs to avoid confusion and fraud, say MEPs,
The recommendation from the Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee provoked a furious response from British Conservatives. Graham Mather, economics spokesman for the 18 Tory MEPs, said preventing countries from placing national symbols on one side of the coins would represent ``a significant symbolic step in a federalist direction''.
Such a move would mean overturning a policy adopted by EU finance ministers in Verona in 1996 when it was agreed that the coins would have a national and a European side.(Daily Telegraph London)