Business Outlook: City wins both ways with EMU

A year's a long time which it comes to European Monetary Union. This time last year there was still great angst among the leading exponents of the single currency; there will be no fudging of the entry conditions, Theo Waigel, the German finance minister would say at every available opportunity. This led everyone to think there was little possibility of Spain and Italy being founding members of the euro.

With the euro less than a year away, nobody bothers too much about that sort of thing any longer. The Euro now seems to be open to all in the first wave, apart from maybe Greece, which really would be a fudge too far. This makes the single currency both a more credible thing, in the sense that it promises to take in most of Europe immediately, and a more dangerous one, in the sense that it will as a result also be more unstable and open to attack.

As for Britain, it would not be capable of joining in the first wave even if its political masters wanted to. Virtually no thought has yet been given or preparation made across vast swathes of British industry and commerce to introduction of the euro. Fortunately this is not the case in the City, which, judging by a symposium yesterday organised by the Bank of England for City practitioners, is relatively advanced in its preparations. The general consensus was that the City is well placed to maintain its position as Europe's leading financial centre even if Britain stays out for some length of time. And if all comes unstuck, then the City will doubly clean up. Don't you just love being in control.