The likely next head of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet,said yesterday that all members of the euro would like to see an early decision by Britain to join the single currency.
"We are all unanimous in that we would welcome the entry of the UK into the euro as soon as possible," M. Trichet said after a speech in Venice.
The French central bank governor - odds on to succeed Wim Duisenberg as chief custodian of the euro next month, following his acquittal of false accounting charges in France - said that the decision on joining the euro rested with the British people. He went on to pay tribute to the Government's presentation of the pros and cons of euro membership last week. The issue was being studied in London in a "highly professional" manner, he said.
But he said that the unanimous view of the 12 countries in euroland was that both the euro and Britain would benefit from UK membership.
The French public prosecutor's office said yesterday it would not appeal against M. Trichet's acquittal on Wednesday of charges that he knowingly approved falsified accounts for the struggling state owned bank, Crédit Lyonnais, when he was a senior French government official in 1992-3.
M. Trichet's appointment to succeed Mr Dusenberg as head of the ECB in Frankfurt is likely to be approved informally at the EU summit in northern Greece, which began yesterday.
In his speech to a financial conference in Venice yesterday, M. Trichet took a gentle swipe at the failure of US institutions to prevent the sharp fall of the dollar against the euro in recent months.
He said that the globalisation of trade and markets demanded action to ensure "financial stability".
In a globalising world, financial stability was "perhaps the most important challenge" facing central banks and all market participants, he said.
Asked to comment in more detail on the euro-dollar exchange rate in a question and answer session after his speech, M. Trichet said that he could only refer to the standard, agreed line of the ECB: "We are continuing our policy of a strong and stable euro."