Off with HRH's head, says EU

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The Independent Online
THE Queen's Head looks certain to disappear off Britain's coins when the new, single European currency is introduced, it emerged yesterday at a European Finance Minister's meeting in Versailles.

It will be the first time in history that a king or queen has not appeared on Britain's coins.

Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, who only last month insisted that the Queen would stay, has been forced to back down.

The European Commission and National Mint directors have advocated abolishing all national symbols on coins for the sake of simplicity and security. However, many countries want to maintain some national symbol, and the notion of small emblems are emerging as a compromise.

"Plainly the drift is to national emblems," said Mr Clarke,"and plainly we would insist on national emblems on the coins and the Queen on our notes."

Ministers yesterday supported plans for the coins to be two-tone in colour, with a silver and gold disk, as revealed in the Independent on Sunday.

As the ministers held their first formal debate about the sensitive issue of currency design, it became clear that a highly-emotive battle lies ahead over the issue. A political outcry could ensue when the public is brought face-to-face with the reality of giving up national currencies.

How far countries support a common design is being raised as a new test of how far they are communitaire - community spirited. Yesterday, Yves Thibault de Silguy, the Economics Commissioner, said a single design would be "the most communitaire solution".

To defuse public concern, there are moves within the EU to sever the link between the start of monetary union with the locking of exchange rates and the physical introduction of the money.

Asked whether there may never be a single currency, Mr Clarke said : "Who knows? Let the people decide."