UK opposition to euro hits record
British Prime Minister Tony Blair's plans to bring the
euro to Britain suffered another blow yesterday morning when a poll
revealed a record number of Britons stand firmly against the move.
According to a Guardian/ICM poll published yesterday, opposition to
Britain adopting the single European currency has reached its highest
level yet, with 45 per cent of respondents saying that they would certainly
vote "No" to the euro in a referendum.
A further 14 per cent said they were against the move but might be persuaded
to change their minds, with less than one fifth coming out in favour
of dropping the sterling.
Blair and euro sceptic Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown are
this week meeting Cabinet members on an individual basis to plot out
the government's stance on the euro. The meetings, expected to be spread
over the next three days, give ministers their first proper chance to
put their view to the two men seen to control the referendum decision.
The cabinet is due to reach its verdict in the first week of June, following
three weeks of discussions based on 18 Treasury studies on the implications
of the euro and the chancellor's own five tests.
"The five tests effectively define the national economic interest
for our country," Brown said. "It is a guarantee that we can
ensure jobs, investment and the future profitability of industry and
the prosperity of the country."
Each minister goes to their meeting fresh from receiving 2,000-odd pages
of Treasury background studies looking into the implications of the
UK replacing the pound with the euro.
The face-to-face talks will conclude today, just ahead tomorrows
cabinet meeting, which the euro is expected to dominate.
Brown also said that if the tests are met and the Cabinet decides to
call a referendum, he would urge the public to back the nation's participation
with the euro.
But many commentators believe this weeks ministerial meetings
are meaningless, as the Chancellor is almost certain to announce in
June that the five economic tests for euro entry have not been met.
Without the tests, a referendum on the euro will not take place in Britain.
Far East threat
Meanwhile, it is believed that Far East investors could pull out of
Britain unless they get a clear signal that the government is preparing
the groundwork to enter the euro, one foreign office minister warned
Gordon Brown was told that if he delivers a "no" verdict in
June he must show how he was working towards the objective of joining
and "in the not too distant future". Investors had to be assured
that Britain was trying to get ready, and if possible when it expected
to be ready, the minister emphasised.
The intervention in the euro debate came from the minister responsible
for the Far East, Bill Rammell. Rammell said that if the government
gave the impression that it was ruling out the euro indefinitely that
would be seen as a "significant U-turn" in the Far East.
Most of the key investment decisions made by Japanese and Korean investors
up to now had been built on the premise "that we would go in before
too long", he said. His remarks were a further indication of how
Labours pro-euro ministers have become emboldened to press their
Rammell said that business in the Far East needed some degree of certainty
in its planning. "They dont want a situation in which there
are sharp variations in interest rates and exchange rate between Britain
and the eurozone," he said.
He added that if it the answer were a "No" it would be important
to make clear that the delay is not forever, otherwise there would be
a risk that they "start becoming anxious and reconsidering their
positions. If it is a no we have to explain to foreign investors how
we get to the point where we are ready and, if possible, when we expect
to be ready."