EMU still on course for 1999

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With the attention of the markets distracted by developments in the Far East, The Independent's panel of experts said European monetary union remained firmly on course to meet its start date of 1 January 1999.

The experts said little news of any significance had happened in Europe this week to cause any concerns about EMU's timing, and also described as predictable the comments made yesterday by Lord Simon that the UK could join from 2002.

Lord Simon, former chairman of British Petroleum who was appointed by the Government as minister for European competitiveness, said there was no realistic chance of Britain joining monetary union before the end of the current parliament.

He said the business community should still prepare now for a single currency and be ready for the UK to join early in the next parliament.

Michael Lewis, economist at Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, said: "We don't feel Lord Simon has actually said anything different to the Government's position. They are still saying not in the lifetime of this parliament."

-Andrew Verity