LETTER : The Tories need a 'volte-face' on Europe

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From Mr Hugh Dykes, MP

Sir: If the Conservative Party is ever to reverse its unpopularity in the polls, in addition to waiting for the feel-good factor to arrive, it will also have to begin to act effectively on the main issue that divides its parliamentary party, Europe. Above all the Government must, at last, stand up bravely and speak the truth on a single European currency.

This is the most momentous decision any country can make. Since 1990, we have taken part in all of the steps regarding monetary union, culminating in the compelling report of central bank governors, including our own British head of the Bank of England. In fact, participating in a European single currency is one of the best economic opportunities this country has been offered since the Second World War.

The arguments for having one currency for all member nations are numerous and logical. It would allow all EC citizens to know exactly how much things cost, instead of getting caught between changing exchange rates and suffering rip-offs (such as higher car prices in the UK). Travellers from the UK would be better off, because each time they change money now, they lose much of it in large fees. And creating a single currency would greatly reduce the waste and inefficiency caused by retaining separate currencies. In other words, it would be like using a universal credit card devoid of the usual charges.

As to the supposed loss of sovereignty involved, why is it that the other countries - even Denmark - wish to join? We need to remember that unlike the US, the EU will not be one, single country. No one has suggested this for decades. Would the French ever wish to give up their intensely proud national sovereignty? Far from it.

Monetary union undermines only the facade of self-rule - it really gives a factual say in the management of the unified currency as a full shareholder of the EU central bank. France prefers this solution to the current situation in which we are forced to accept decisions over which we can only exert a weak influence.

What wise words from Jean Francois Poncet, the former French foreign minister.

The British government must at last get away from acute party strife on Europe. A large majority of MPs from all parties favour European Monetary Union. Any far-sighted national leader must acknowledge that fact. It may mean trade-offs with the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, but that too could be in the true national interest. Why not, for example, postpone British Rail privatisation to get Labour support on EMU?

If you explain Europe properly, you will always get support from the public. Meanwhile, time is running out for the vital change of stance so necessary now in the Tory party.

Yours faithfully,

Hugh Dykes

MP for Harrow East (Con)

House of Commons

London, SW1

5 January