On 3 February, the Prime Minister had made a speech predicting further barriers on the path to European monetary union, but the Chancellor's speech on 9 February struck a more pro-European tone, leading to press reports of a split within the Cabinet.
(KC) [I want to have a debate and keep our options open] and to carry on working with the other Europeans on what a single currency might or might not involve. At least, you have got to admit I've got a debate going. [Interruption] You wouldn't get more of a debate than we've had in the last month or two. . .
(JH) Well I don't know who you are addressing those comments to, perhaps to your own Chief Secretary Jonathan Aitken because he ruled it out. I mean he said last week, "I don't want to see a single currency, period."
(KC) And he went on to say, "But you can never say never in politics" . . .
( JH) Well, and he also went on to say . . . "I would hesitate for an eternity, an eternity before I came out and said I'd vote for a single currency." Now you wouldn't suggest to me, being an intelligent man, that that's the same sort of thing that you were saying last night.
KC) This is all great fun John and . . .
(JH) No, no that's . . .
(KC) . . . whenever any of us talk about Europe this is always the kind of thing that comes out. In practically the next breath he said "you never say never in politics".
(JH) Oh go on . . .
(KC) Jonathan fought, Jonathan fought . . .
(JH) It was not the same . . .
(KC) Jonathan fought the European elections on the same platform as myself, with which he wholly agrees that again, as John Major said last Friday, to say yes or no now is simply to act on a hunch. Let us get involved in the work with the other Europeans, because I think we can help them improve the rules that they may run with, with or without us, and let us decide in 1999 what this means for British business, British commerce, most particularly for British jobs.
(JH) Now, now that's fine, but as this debate goes on the problem is - it is true of course you fought the election last time on the same platform last time - but as the debate goes on it is becoming nastier, there's no question about that and the Cabinet appears to be becoming increasingly divided and that causes you political problems, doesn't it?
(KC) Well it's no good trying to get us all to be nasty to each other, because I don't believe we are. Whatever else my speech was last night . . . It was serious. It reminded people of the history of our involvement with Europe which has got ever deeper politically and economically.
My belief is that actually we benefit enormously from what has happened so far in Europe and that we've won far more battles than people give us credit for. And my belief is that we shouldn't be marginalised in Europe.
Leading article, page 26Reuse content