Election '97: Tory rebel army declares war on single currency

Euro-sceptic warning of Super State is spreading, says Anthony Bevins
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The Independent Online
The Conservative candidates' revolt against the European single currency, given John Major's blessing yesterday, has already taken hold out in the constituencies.

As The Independent reported yesterday, it extends far beyond the hard- core band of known Euro-sceptics who led the resistance to the Maastricht Treaty, and now drives into the party's loyalist heartland.

While Norman Lamont, in Harrogate, and Sir Ivan Lawrence QC, in Burton, could be expected to tell their voters bluntly that they stand for "No surrender", Lady Olga Maitland, in Sutton and Cheam, and Julian Brazier, Canterbury, have also joined the growing army of currency-sceptics

Lady Olga, who was a ministerial aide in the last Parliament, told the BBC radio World at One programme yesterday that she had issued a leaflet, saying, "No Single Currency in Europe".

The Government was saying "wait and see", she said. "But we can all see very clearly what is likely to happen anyway. I think we should all be looking ahead and I think it would be dishonest to sit on the fence."

Exploiting the same Conservative loophole as Angela Browning, Mr Brazier told his electorate: "A single currency would mean sending all of Brit- ain's gold reserves to Frankfurt, where the new European Central Bank would control them.

"Britain would have handed over control for ever of British interest rates and fiscal policy to unelected bankers abroad."

Sir Ivan says in a newsletter to his constituents: "We are a sovereign nation state. We must have the right to run our own economy. Yet a single currency would mean a central bank - almost certainly in Frankfurt - with the power to make economic conditions for the whole of the European Community, including Britain.

"Our powers to set exchange rates with external countries, interest rates and tax rates would be handed over to unelected, unaccountable European bankers ...

"Britain's gold and foreign exchange reserves, worth over pounds 30 billion, would be transferred to the European Central Bank as a condition of joining the single currency. The pound would be abolished and substituted by the euro - we may or may not be allowed to have our Queen's head on it."

Sir Peter Tapsell says in his election address to Louth and Horncastle voters: "If we abolish the pound, give up control of our interest rates and send our Gold Reserves to Frankfurt, we cease to be an independent self-governing country.

"There would be little point in electing anyone to represent you in the Westminster 'Parliament'. Power would be wielded by foreigners in the Commission in Brussels and the European Central Bank at Frankfurt, as Chancellor Kohl demands. Would Labour resist this?

"If you wrote to your MP with a complaint, the reply would be: 'I am sorry. These decisions are now taken in Europe by foreigners we did not elect, who know little of our affairs, and whom we cannot dismiss.' The German Foreign Minister has publicly urged you not to vote Conservative. Ask yourself: Why? I give you this pledge: I shall never vote to join a Single European Currency or a Federal Europe."

Nicholas Budgen, another Euro-sceptic, says in his election address: "I am opposed, in principle, to a single currency. I believe that Labour is more likely than the Conservatives to take us into a single currency.

"A single currency can only succeed if it is supported by a European Super State. I am also opposed, in principle, to such a state and to the surrender of the sovereignty of the British people which would occur if one were set up."

On that point, as Mr Major and Mrs Browning said yesterday, Mr Budgen has the fullest possible endorsement of the Conservative Party manifesto.