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Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 12:20 GMT
UK euro entry: Will the decision be political?
While the euro is now a reality in 12 countries, in Britain the debate continues on whether, and how, to join the single European currency.
Treasury official Gus O'Donnell has reportedly said the decision on whether or not Britain joins the euro will be a political, not an economic, one.
His comments appear to clash with the government's claim that five economic tests must be met before a referendum on joining the euro.
They come the day after Prime Minister Tony Blair gave the euro his renewed support.
Will the decision on joining the euro be a political one? What grounds should determine the UK's entry?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Chris Lane, Australia
In reply to ... Tine, Belgium "I think sharing the same currency shows that we have a high respect for other nationalities, that we trust them." Trust the same EU Commission that recently resigned in a corruption scandal? Peter Jasperse, The Netherlands "It's the fourth day of the New Year now and I'm totally converted" Better talk to the Italians - it's now the 6th day and the Italian cabinet has just split over the euro.
Dermot Casey, Ireland
"Here in Ireland we embrace new ideas instead of living in the past"
Now there's a new one!
"The euro is not only about our common economic good but also about becoming more European"
I agree, but, do you mean more French or German?
Ludovic Mehaline, France
"..why did you join the EU in the first place?"
We didn't. We joined the European Economic Community. The rest was foisted on us.
"Perhaps the Euro project will work - who knows, certainly not the politicians behind it. Clearly the euro has not been the alternative hard currency to the US dollar so confidently projected.
"There's safety in numbers"
Tell that to the lemmings.
Gerry, of the Midlands, proclaims that Eurosceptics believe they are better than our neighbours. This is false. The image of counter-europeans as Imperialist flag-wavers really ought to be consigned to the dustbin. Modern counter-Europeanism is about self-determination and self-sufficiency. These are not properly respected by the European Union (e.g. the ignored Nice referendum in Ireland), and sceptics doubt that this will change. Counter-Europeanism is for the open-minded, not the blinkered - it questions the merits of the EU model compared to, say, Switzerland, Iceland, or other autonomous western states.
I can't speak for all sceptics, but I personally feel that the time has come to draw a line. If that be the euro, fine. I'm confident we can gain as much, if not more, by staying politically and economically independent.
Although I don't have anything against as such, why do so many people want to be part of another state, under another set of laws, with more authority? Wouldn't anyone prefer to live in a world where we are not building more and more centres of power? Like the IMF, NATO and other "world" organisations, the EU has not been built from the bottom up. It's been set up to establish more executive power over our lives.
As a Brit living in France I have for some time been a confirmed "European" - and I am also very much in favour of the ¿uro. Those in Britain who feel the right approach is to "wait and see" lack foresight - this is not the answer: if everyone waited to see what the others were doing, nothing would ever get done. What ever happened to the old adventurous spirit the British are supposed to be blessed with?
As for losing one's sovereignty, come on... take of the blinkers and let's get on with the job. A United Europe is the only way forward and procrastination from the few (who also seem to be too many in the UK) will not stop future progress.
Whether the tests, that the Chancellor is relying on to tell us whether or not we SHOULD join the euro, have been met... is subject to interpretation by, yes, a politician. Of course it will be political, because in the end, it boils down to ideology. Unions of different peoples, with different languages, different cultures... don't often work. The examples are quite obvious from history. The euro will not work unless it is a currency shared by all parts of a single country. So of course that is what the target will be. Different Countries, with different growths. In order for the UK to join.... the country will have to have accepted the ideology of the U.S. of Europe... And that, sounds like politics to me.
Bill Spring, Germany
Of course the decision will be political. This is because the payback period for the integration process will be so long that it will be impossible to justify on narrow economic grounds.
The question for us in Britain is this: as a nation, do we want to be the USA's Hong Kong or an integral part of an increasingly integrated and unified Europe?
The decision is more than political - it is constitutional. If we give up economic policy to the European bureaucrats, we will have marked the end of the UK - England, Wales, Scotland and NI - as we know it.
It is plain wrong to say we are not big enough to stand alone - just look at Japan.
And let's not confuse successfully introducing new notes and coins with medium-term economic stability/ prosperity, like most of the media seem to be.
The politicians will ensure that our adopting the euro is a political decision. I suspect, however, that it is already a done deal - or will be in a year's time when all the businessmen and holiday makers return from a Europe free of being ripped off at every border by the money changers. What will be fun is watching the Tories entering the field of battle to defend Great Britain's feudal heritage, so dear to their selfish hearts. Girded in the armour of old, shields emblazoned with the cross of St George and swords raised high, the heavens will echo their timeless anthem of 'Land of Hope and Glory' - for the privileged few.
But wait. Where are the troops and the grateful peasantry? There are none to be found. They have all gone over to the enemy.
Steven Hoey, UK
With all of history as a guide, why should the UK's fate be determined by German ambitions?
The people of the UK should have the right to receive the definitive facts and then be allowed to make their own minds up, and vote in a referendum - just as the people of Denmark were given the right to decide for themselves. We live in a democracy after all.
I suspect that there are no strong economic reasons for either joining the Euro or staying out. For me, the question is purely political: do we want to be a larger fish in a sea (and join the Euro) or be a tiny fish in an ocean (and keep the pound). Surely the bigger the fish that we can be, the more political influence we can generate, the better the result for us all.
John Scott, UK
It really beggars belief to hear Tony Blair telling US that we cannot hide our heads in the sand over the single currency. When all along it is he that is hiding in the sand by refusing to hold a ballot now so that we can make our choice and put the matter to rest once and for all.
Nick Carey, Czech Republic
It's very simple, the decision is NOT political, it is PERSONAL and will be decided by the great British public, not the politicians when the referendum comes. Vote YES I say.
A federal Europe is by no means a bad thing; central administration would cover transport (and nobody, I'm sure, would doubt that other EU countries' train networks are better than our own), taxation (we have one of the highest VAT levels in the Union), Foreign policy (bearing in mind most EU countries have remarkably similar policy anyway) among other things. And as regards a single currency; Sterling is already a "single currency" in four countries. A stronger, larger economy to rival the USA is something to be proud of, not shy away from. And every eurozone state has a vote about exchange rates, so its not as if Frankfurt will force its rule upon us. The chance of the Tories getting hold of the economy again should be reason enough to join.
Tony Blair claims to be advocating the euro on an economic platform. However, his vision seems more in line with the European Commission, who actually admit that the euro is a tool for political integration, than with our own Treasury and Bank, who are cautious about the associated economics.
We already know that Mr. Blair won't call a referendum until he has some arguments to justify that "the time is right". That is almost the same as loading the question. If he is that keen to mislead the public, then this has got to be political.
Its a political decision: The only reason we aren¿t in already is that the PM is concerned about opinion polls.
David Magee, Northern Ireland
Naturally the decision is a political one. When did politicians ever give up control of something important to something as impartial as cold economics?
The decision to adopt the euro should be made by the people via a referendum as promised. The magnitude of this decision cannot be overstated. If it is not decided by the people, and we do join, not only the will the UK cease to exist (and let there be no doubt about it, that is the bottom that no political leader dare mention) but freedom on this island will die forever. To abolish the UK and become a state of Europe cannot be a political decision. The people must decide after a full and informed debate.
Like it or not, while the eurozone economies have such a high unemployment rate it would not be in our best interests to join up with to euro. If Germany and France cannot bring down their unemployment rates to US or UK levels then we would be foolish to sign on the dotted line.
David Hazel, UK
Essentially the decision is a political one with economic (and many other) consequences. It is disingenuous for the government to pretend otherwise. The real decision we have to make as a nation is if we wish to relinquish more control over all aspects of our economy, and every other aspect of life, to Brussels. The introduction of the euro is but one more step along the way to a Europe governed from the centre with one set of fiscal, economic and social policies. This has always been the political endgame. I for one do not wish to see this happen.
Disgustingly, it will be political. The people should have the opportunity to vote, without the government trying to persuade them one way or the other. We should have independent pro and anti groups issuing propaganda, not the members of the government. After all, they are our servants - a fact that they obviously need reminding of.
It is a political decision. Why does our prime minister insist on calling it an economic decision when all the continental politicians say it's political and a step towards political union. It seems it's Tony Blair, and not the UK, that has his head in the sand.
The UK will inevitably join for both reasons. I suppose there is no harm in adopting a "wait and see" attitude. It's good to be cautious. The truth is that the ball is in the UK's court. The euro is a reality. The UK will have to decide its own attitude to it.
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