Fall in value does not prevent the euro being `undoubted success', says Clarke

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KENNETH CLARKE attacked the Tories' "preposterous" anti-euro sentiments yesterday, days after William Hague extended an olive branch to his party's pro-Europeans.

The former Chancellor described the euro as an "undoubted success" and, although he did not mention Mr Hague by name, he ridiculed the Tory leadership's arguments against the euro. "It is preposterous to suggest that because the euro has fallen in value against the dollar it has been a bad euro in its first year," he said in a statement marking the single currency's first anniversary.

Mr Clarke's remarks may make it more difficult for Mr Hague to stop Tory Eurosceptics from seeking to deselect Mr Clarke and other pro- European Tory grandees.

Mr Hague, in an exclusive interview in The Independent on 23 December, told Euro-sceptics to drop plans to attempt to deselect prominent Europhiles. He said he wanted Mr Clarke, Michael Heseltine and David Curry to be reselected. They all face moves to sack them because of their opposition to the party's hardline policy on Europe.

Mr Clarke said in the statement, issued by the pro-euro campaign group Britain in Europe, that the continental economies had benefited from a sensible value on the euro that reflected the strength of the American economy. "Overall the launch of the euro in this first year has been an undoubted success for the 11 countries in the euro zone," he said.

Lord Owen, chairman of the anti-euro New Europe group, warned Tony Blair against "soft soaping" the British into entry to the euro. The former SDP leader, who is leading the campaign against the euro, said there was "nothing inevitable" about integration into the eurozone. "We are strong enough economically and politically to carve out a distinctive position for the UK, firmly within the new, enlarged EU," Lord Owen said.