BP boss backs single currency

Europe should move to monetary union on schedule, a top- level Brussels advisory committee including Sir David Simon, chairman of BP, warned yesterday.

The committee's report was far more committed to monetary union than British business as a whole which, according to a joint CBI and British Chambers of Commerce report last month, would prefer to keep options open and decide nearer the time.

The European Commission's Competitiveness Advisory Group, made up of senior business people and trade unionists, said completion of the internal market was an absolute priority to enhance competitiveness.

Further progress on the internal market required that "European monetary union be fully implemented as scheduled. Many of the benefits bestowed by an integrated internal market can materialise only with the introduction of the European currency."

The report, commissioned by Jacques Santer, president of the European Commission, has been published ahead of the Madrid summit of European leaders. The group's first report was published before the Cannes summit.

Introducing the report, Sir David said his personal support for monetary union was conditional on convergence between European economies and on having a single market as the goal.

The committee said monetary union would avoid exposing trade inside Europe to sudden gyrations in exchange rates. The benefits for all countries "irrespective of the present condition of their currency will be greater the higher the number of participating member states."

The ambitious targets within the Maastricht treaty were now within reach and any delay or postponement "could drive them further away, with the risk of losing them, as well as jeopardising the work of decades, with the resurgence of the danger of nationalistic attitudes and demands".