Bank of England has designs on the euro

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The Independent Online

Press Association

The Bank of England will almost certainly enter the race to design Europe's new bank-notes, even though the Government has not yet committed the country to joining a single currency.

Last night the Bank confirmed it is likely to submit designs in a competition launched by the European Monetary Institute, the Frankfurt-based body overseeing the transfer from national currencies to the European single currency, or euro. The competition is open only to "experienced banknote designers". In Britain's case that restricts entrants to the Bank of England, with its own in-house designers, or to the Basingstoke firm of De La Rue, designers and printers of 60 per cent of the world's banknotes.

The EMI is looking for ideas for the design of banknotes in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros. Those entering the competition have been given two design options.

The first, says the EMI, should be a traditional approach on the theme of "ages and styles of Europe", to reflect Europe's cultural heritage. One side of each note would show features or portraits of significant personalities, representing a certain age in history, while the other side would display an architecture feature from the same period.

The other option will be a series of notes with an abstract or contemporary design. All designs must allow for several advanced security features which will be incorporated in the notes later to help to prevent counterfeiting.

The competition will close on 13 September, long before the expected launch date for all the euro coins and notes by July 2002 at the latest. Despite uncertainty about the timetable, the official launch date of European monetary union remains 1 January 1999, at which point all exchange rates between national currencies will be irrevocably fixed and the transition to the euro will begin.

"It is pretty likely that the Bank of England will make a design application," said a Bank spokesman tonight.