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Friday, 29 September, 2000, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Ministers stand by euro vote plan
euro protester
A Danish man protests against the euro
The UK Government is insisting it will still hold a referendum over the euro when the time is right - despite coming under political pressure following the Danish no vote.

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said the Danish decision would not affect the UK's own stance.

It is within the capability of the British people to vote 'no'

Shadow chancellor Michael Portillo
But Tory shadow chancellor Michael Portillo said it shattered supporters' strongest arguments for Britain joining the sincle currency.

The Danish people rejected joining the single currency in a referendum on Thursday, with 47% in favour and 53% against.

Mr Cook said the government would go ahead with a referendum on joining up after the next election, if economic conditions were right.

Mr Cook told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The people of Denmark have taken a decision which they think is right for Denmark.

"If we conclude that there would be economic benefits for Britain it is right to keep the option open and ask the British people to decide.

"The vote last night does not alter in any way the fact that the Eurozone contains 250 million people who provide the market for the majority of our exports."

'Not isolated'

But Mr Portillo said the Danish vote introduced "an important change" to the British debate.

It is right to keep the option open and ask the British people to decide

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook
"[One of the] arguments that were really made in favour about going in was that we should be fearful in some way of being left out, fearful of being isolated.

"We are not now isolated, other people in Europe have taken the same view.

"The other argument was that it was somehow inevitable that we would go in the euro. Well, it clearly isn't inevitable. It is within the capability of the British people to vote 'no' if they are offered that chance in a referendum."

Mr Cook agreed that the British people should be the ones making any decision.

"We have got to make sure that it is the people of Britain who decide," he said.

"I find it rather odd that those very people who stressed the sovereignty, stressed the right of Britain to make independent decisions, seemed to be suggesting that Denmark should decide for Britain."

Robin Cook
Robin Cook: "Five economic tests to be met"
He said: "There are 5,000 American and Japanese companies who invest here because they want to export to that market."

Europe's finance ministers are meeting in Brussels on Friday to discuss the impact of the Danish vote on the value of the euro.

European Commission President Romano Prodi insisted that the outcome would not affect the currency's fortunes.

But the price fell below 88 cents in New York after the referendum result and fell in Friday's early trading on European exchanges, prompting speculation that finance ministers would consider intervening to bolster its value.

Europe's future

Downing Street confirmed that Mr Blair did not believe the Danish result had any impact on the arguments for British entry.

But Tory former cabinet minister John Redwood said: "The government have been caught flat-footed by the result in Denmark. It is pathetic that they will not comment on it, when it is so important to the future of Europe."

It is thought that the Danish vote may hasten the creation of a two-speed Europe, with pro-integrationists such as France and Germany using the opportunity to consign the doubters to a slow lane.

Mr Prodi insisted that the Danish outcome did not necessarily mean that Britain and Sweden would also reject membership.

'Reform EU'

Euro-sceptics have urged reform of the EU in the wake of the verdict.

Nick Herbert, chief executive of Business for Sterling, said it showed ministers the British electorate would reject the euro.

"If the euro can be rejected by a small country like Denmark which has close economic ties with Euroland then the euro lobby must realise that is will be rejected by Britain."

Lord Owen - the founder of the New Europe group which campaigns against British entry into the euro - told the House of Lords the Danes had made the right choice.

"They have made, in my view, a perfectly valid distinction between committed membership of the EU and a decision not to join the euro currency."

Meanwhile, the UK Independence Party seized on the result to announce that former Tory MP Roger Knapman will stand as a candidate for the party in the next eneral election.

The party advocates an amicable withdrawal from the European Union and favours keeping the pound.

Mr Knapman, a former senior whip under John Major and assistant to William Hague in the Welsh Office, joined the UKIP in June.

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See also:

29 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Danish vote boosts eurosceptics
29 Sep 00 | Europe
Europe gauges Danish no vote
28 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Danish vote rocks Blair
27 Sep 00 | UK Politics
UK watches Denmark
29 Sep 00 | UK Politics
The great euro debate
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