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Thursday, 30 August, 2001, 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK
Hain hints about euro entry
Peter Hain
Peter Hain said the euro was 'marching on'
Europe Minister Peter Hain has given another strong indication that the government regards entry to the euro as inevitable.

In an interview with the left-wing magazine Tribune, Mr Hain said the euro "was marching on" and that the decision could not be delayed indefinitely.

His comments, reported in the Independent, seemed to expand on the official government line that membership of the euro depends on the chancellor's five economic tests.

The euro is marching on and no one thinks the decision can be postponed for ever

Peter Hain
But the Foreign Office played down Mr Hain's comments and insisted they did not go further than official policy.

Both Conservative Party leadership hopefuls criticised the Europe minister.

Mr Hain said: "The euro is marching on and no one thinks the decision can be postponed for ever, apart from the right of the Tory party.

"I have always thought that the euro is a logical development of a single market and there is a need for it, in order to introduce price transparency and the harmonisation of costs."

Important year

Mr Hain hinted that public opinion on the euro could be shifted with contact by UK tourists' with actual coins and notes from next year.

"Next year is going to be very important as people will have new notes and coins in their wallets when they go abroad.

"Companies trading with Europe will start to deal in euros.

"Some are already considering paying their British staff in euros, while shops are talking about displaying prices in euros."

He also indicated that any referendum campaign would try and steer the debate to the economic benefits.

European argument

"If we were to call a referendum, the only way a majority would vote 'yes' is if they thought the decision was being made in the interests of jobs and their future prosperity, not because of some kind of ideological pro-European dogma.

"We will not win the European argument unless we engage party members and trade unionists and you can't do that by staying aloof."

There is no change to our policy, which is that the assessment of the five tests will be completed within two years of the general election

Foreign Office spokesman
The interview will add to speculation that the euro referendum will be called before the next general election.

A Foreign Office spokesman said Mr Hain's comments had been "grossly hyped" and that it was a "statement of the obvious that the decision on the euro could not be put off forever".

He added: "There is no change to our policy, which is that the assessment of the five tests will be completed within two years of the general election, as the prime minister made clear to the House on 7 February."

'Bid to bamboozle'

Mr Hain's comments drew fire from Eurosceptic Conservative leadership challenger Iain Duncan Smith.

"Firstly, he is wrong in what he says and, secondly, this is a matter which should be decided by the British people.

"He is trying to bamboozle people into thinking this is something that they have got to do - I would say to him, dream on."

A spokesman for rival contender Ken Clarke was also critical of the minister's remarks.

"Mr Hain is wrong if he thinks people will back a single currency unless the conditions are right for Britain. The issue will be decided by the British people in a referendum," he said.

David Clarke, former advisor to Robin Cook
"Ultimately the decision will be taken by the Prime Minister"
See also:

09 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Britons think euro entry 'inevitable'
29 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Blair: No two-speed Europe
30 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Clarke: Euro poll not party political
29 Jul 01 | UK Politics
No euro purge says Duncan Smith
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