Politics: Thatcher in talks to save the pound

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A CROSS-PARTY campaign to oppose the European single currency will be set up this month, with Baroness Thatcher and other Conservatives named as possible supporters.

Peter Shore, the former Labour cabinet minister who is now in the House of Lords, was also reported last night to be involved in discussions about the Save the Pound campaign, which was expected to be attached to a new anti-European think-tank.

It was also claimed that the Prime Minister had started sounding out senior pro-European Conservatives, such as Kenneth Clarke and Michael Heseltine, to see it they would back the Government's "yes" campaign in a referendum.

The Daily Telegraph claimed that Lady Thatcher had been joined by Lord Cranborne and Lord Shore in secret discussions on their group.

A group of senior businessmen including Sir Rocco Forte, the industrialist, Lord Hanson and Lord Hindlip, the chairman of the auctioneers' Christie's, were said to be backing the campaign, which has a pounds 10m fund-raising target. One of the organisers was quoted as saying: Those in favour of the single currency have an awful lot of bullets and it is time to get our act together. We have the better arguments, but not yet the money to deploy them properly."

The group aims to fund an information service in schools, on billboards and in the media to try and get its message across.

The new think-tank, Global Britain, would create a database on the economic, political and constitutional aspects of monetary union. There would also be a media monitoring unit aimed at spotting bias and trying to tack it head on. Lord Tebbit, a former Conservative Party chairman, was reported to be a strong supporter of the campaign, while Lady Thatcher was said to be "following all the developments closely."

William Hague is said to be worried that Conservative Euro-MPs might form a resistance to his policy of ruling out British membership of a single currency for 10 years.

A leaked copy of the European Union's new "ethical"arms-dealing code thrashed out between Britain and France reveals loopholes which will allow exports to repressive regimes to continue, a group of charities claimed last night.

They said the code, which is meant to parallel Robin Cook's ethical foreign policy, would not stop arms brokers in Europe from transferring weapons from one Third World country to another. The Foreign Office put up a robust defence of the draft code, saying that it regarded it as a major step forward.

But a joint statement from Oxfam, Amnesty International, Saferworld and Basic, the British American Security Information Council, said the new guidelines were not tough enough to guard against human rights abuses.