Howe to oppose Hague on euro

LORD HOWE, the former foreign secretary, will defy William Hague, the Conservative leader, this week by joining the leadership of the campaign aimed at persuading the British public to join the single European currency.

Tony Blair has endorsed the launch on Thursday of the "Yes" campaign by prominent businessmen, which he hopes will keep up the momentum towards British membership after he unveiled a national changeover plan two weeks ago.

Kenneth Clarke and Michael Heseltine, the most prominent pro-European Union Tory MPs, will not join the Britain in Europe campaign until after the European Parliament elections in June, in an attempt to limit Tory divisions ahead of the poll. But they have promised to play a leading role after the elections, when a full-scale Yes movement will be launched.

Lord Howe's immediate involvement as an "observer" on the group's board will anger Tory Eurosceptics. Some MPs may demand that he be deprived of the party whip.

The Britain in Europe group will run an information campaign during the Euro elections to counter Tory attacks on the single currency. The group insists it will produce "factual and politically neutral" material.

Britain in Europe will be chaired by Lord Marshall, the British Airways chairman and former president of the Confederation of British Industry. Other prominent businessmen will include Lord Hollick, chief executive of United News and Media, Colin Sharman, chief executive of KPMG International, and Niall FitzGerald, chairman of Unilever.

"We believe Mr Blair came off the fence, now we are doing the same," said one organiser. The board will also include Giles Radice, the Labour MP who chairs the European Movement, and Michael Welsh, director of the Tory Action Centre for Europe, who will act as Mr Clarke's "eyes and ears".

Mr Hague's allies have threatened to expel Tories who endorse a breakaway Pro-Euro Conservative Party launched by two MEPs, John Stevens and Brendan Donnelly.

But Mr Hague is unlikely to discipline Lord Howe. "We will let party members make their own judgement; he will weaken his own case in the party by parading his views before the Euro elections," one Hague ally said last night.

Friends of Lord Howe insisted he was doing nothing wrong, since Mr Hague had promised supporters of the euro would remain free to state their views when Tory members backed the leadership's hard line in a ballot last autumn.

Lord Howe dismissed speculation that Europhile Tories would support the rebel pro-euro candidates in the June poll. But he said he was "saddened" by the departure of Mr Stevens and Mr Donnelly and understood their reasons. He warned that their resignations "should send a clear and sombre signal to our party leadership".

However, the Prime Minister's statement has persuaded Mr Hague to risk another outbreak of Tory disunity by making the single currency a key issue in the Euro election. Yesterday Mr Hague set up a commission to investigate the positive case for Britain retaining the pound, to be chaired by Sir John Nott, the former defence secretary.

Mr Clarke said: "I don't think the European elections should be about the euro. If the Conservative Party makes it about the euro, it's making a serious mistake." He accused Mr Hague's aides of "advertising Tory divisions" by claiming he would support the rebel Tories, which was "nonsense".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower