Senior Tories offer to back Blair on EMU

PRO-EUROPEAN heavyweights in the Conservative Party openly defied William Hague last night by welcoming Tony Blair's announcement of the timetable under which Britain would join a successful single currency.

Michael Heseltine and Kenneth Clarke, the former cabinet ministers, undermined Mr Hague's Commons attack on the Government's new strategy by suggesting they would join an all-party campaign led by Mr Blair to win a "Yes" vote in a referendum on the euro.

Mr Heseltine hinted that there was a formal split in the Tory ranks because of the pro-Europeans' strong opposition to Mr Hague's flagship policy of ruling out single currency membership in this Parliament and the next.

The former deputy Prime Minister told the Commons it would take an all- party campaign to swing public opinion behind joining the euro, and asked for a categoric assurance that Mr Blair would lead such an "all-party alignment". Mr Blair replied: "I certainly intend to be at the forefront of that campaign myself."

Mr Clarke, the former Chancellor, said he welcomed Mr Blair's "marked change of tone" and his decision to "give some reality" to his policy of "prepare and decide" on the euro. He urged the Prime Minister to continue to "put his mouth where he thinks our money ought to be".

Sir Edward Heath, the former Tory Prime Minister, attacked the "pseudo arguments" put forward by the Tory opposition against the single currency.

But Mr Hague launched a strong attack on Mr Blair's statement. He mocked the Prime Minister for changing his tune since he wrote an article for The Sun before the 1997 general election in which said he "loved the pound".

The Tory leader accused the Government of denying the British people a choice by "bouncing" them into the euro by spending large sums of their own money to convince them that British membership was inevitable and a referendum decision a formality.

The national changeover plan, he said, was part of a "national handover plan" to hand over Britain's political and economic freedom before the country knew whether the single currency worked.

Mr Blair replied that the Tories were out of touch with public opinion, and their "ostrich strategy" would not work.

But Mr Blair also faced a split in Labour's ranks, as he fielded hostile questions from sceptics including Tony Benn, Dennis Skinner and Denzil Davies. Mr Davies warned that the common monetary policy would inflict far greater damage than the EU's common agricultural policy, which Britain was now seeking to reform.

Paddy Ashdown, Liberal Democrat leader, said Mr Blair's statement showed he had"crossed the Rubicon in favour of the euro", even though he pretended he had not.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
News
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
scienceBumping fists rather than shaking hands could reduce the spread of infectious diseases, it is claimed
Sport
Mario Balotelli posed for this selfie during AC Milan's 5-1 defeat to Manchester City
sport
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth Games
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + ents
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Extras
indybestSpice up your knife with our selection of delicious toppings
Sport
sport
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

M&E Construction Planner Solihull

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Car, Healthcare, Pensions: Progressive Recruitment...

Senior Java Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Leading Sof...

Chemistry Teacher

£90 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are looking fo...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried