Politics: Euro alliance attracts Tory grandees

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The Independent Online
Kenneth Clarke and Michael Heseltine yesterday said they were prepared to join an alliance with the Government to promote Britain's place in Europe in spite of a rejection of the Prime Minister's initiative by William Hague's senior Cabinet colleagues.

The former Chancellor and CBI leaders yesterday threw their weight behind calls on the Government, made at aCBI/IBM conference in London on Economic and Monetary Union, to speed up the preparations in Britain for the start of EMU in May.

Key figures from the commercial world said they would be "in" a single currency even if the Government was "out".

Mr Clarke endorsed this view, saying: "Britain's political position is that the euro is coming soon and we must manage a transitional period whilst we wait and see when we can join. The commercial position of UK Ltd is that the euro is now and upon us."

The invitation made by Tony Blair in a speech in The Hague to create a "patriotic alliance" was seen at Westminster as a possible first stage in the realignment of British politics.

Mr Clarke and Mr Heseltine scoffed at Mr Blair's rhetoric, but they refused to close the door on the offer. "I am always ready to listen to sensible ideas. I believe this country's interest is in integration in Europe," Mr Clarke said. Mr Heseltine said he believed there was a growing consensus in favour of Britain playing a more positive role in Europe.