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Monday, 17 July, 2000, 02:58 GMT 03:58 UK
Euro worth the 'risk' - Clarke
Kenneth Clarke
Kenneth Clarke warns of the danger of 'dithering'
Former Tory chancellor Kenneth Clarke has warned that "having a fit of nervous doubt" over joining the European single currency would be "disastrous" for the UK.

But the pro-Euro MP admits the move is risky and irreversible, even if the UK suffers economic damage as a result.

In a debate with euro-sceptic former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, he said those who were pro-EU but anti-euro were "marginalising Britain".

The Tories' official policy is to remain within the EU while ruling out joining the euro within the next Parliament.

He said: "The worst thing is to be in Europe and run by Europe.

This country has prospered for the last 20 years because it took risks ... and it's got to carry on doing so

Kenneth Clarke

"I do not accept such a secondary and subordinate role for [the UK].

"And if we sit dithering on the edge, that is exactly the role to which we will condemn ourselves - accepting the rules but refusing to get involved."

Mr Clarke believes national currencies will be considered "quaint" in 50 years time, and said the UK could suffer economically by rejecting financial globalisation.

His comments have been published in a pamphlet from pressure group New Europe, which describes itself as pro-EU but anti-euro.

While admitting to Mr Rifkind that joining the euro would be irreversible, Mr Clarke added: "Every decision we take in government has an element of risk.

"We are already seeing, more quickly than I expected, the downside for future investment of dithering around and failing to make our minds up about the euro.

"Your risk-averse approach to any dangerous decision would stop us having any government of any kind.

"This country has prospered for the last 20 years because it took risks ... and it's got to carry on doing so.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind
Sir Malcolm Rifkind argues against "irreversible" change

"To have a fit of nervous doubt about whether it wants to join the modern world would, in my opinion, be disastrous.

"You suffer great economic penalties in keeping your own currency, and it strikes me that this is patriotism gone slightly eccentrically wrong."

The Tory MP for Rushcliffe has always considered the EU "a political union as much as an economic one", a view shared by the Thatcher government which signed the Single European Act, he said.

But he insisted that no European government wanted tax harmonisation, and said states would "fall over themselves vetoing" any such proposal.

Sir Malcolm said the single currency would inevitably lead to a single European government, regardless of member states' wishes.

He said: "If you create a single currency for countries that have substantially different economies, but no means to counter depressions and high unemployment, you have to centralise more and more power over time, in order to rectify that."

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