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Monday, 3 September, 2001, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Blair's euro chances talked up
Euro coins and notes will be introduced in January
Despite wide public hostility to the euro, the Prime Minister Tony Blair could still win a referendum on Britain joining the single currency, according to a government-friendly think tank.

The Foreign Policy Centre, which has been supported by the prime minister, says that public opposition to the euro is not ingrained and could be vastly reduced if high-profile politicians like Mr Blair were to campaign vigorously for entry.

If Labour are serious about Britain joining the euro, they need to start making the case now

Matthew Taylor
The joint authors of the report - Winning the Euro Referendum - Mark Leonard and Tom Arbuthnott said: "Despite all the polls which newspapers run on support for the single currency, there is very little attempt to get behind the headline figures and analyse what motivates public opinion.

"Our analysis of public opinion proves that a referendum can be won. But it will depend on pro-Europeans making the case and filling the information void."

Opinion polls consistently suggest that around seven out of 10 people in the UK are against joining the euro.

A decision on whether to hold a euro referendum during this parliament will be taken within the next two years.

Changing minds

The Foreign Policy Centre takes their argument from an analysis of the British Election Survey on shifts in opinion during the recent general election campaign.

No campaign advert
Gordon Brown is the subject of the latest No campaign poster
The think tank contends that changes in opinion can be swift once pro-European politicians like Mr Blair and Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy campaign for the euro.

They believe this means it would not take years to wear down the opinion poll lead currently held by the No campaign.

In the last three weeks of the general election campaign, the centre says, there was a 5.5% swing from opposition to the euro to the "wait and see" position.

Patriotic case

Turning to the strategy of a future pro-euro campaign, the report suggests that economic arguments will not work on their own unless they are backed by a strong patriotic and political case.

It also says an information campaign should be undertaken on the euro by high profile and trusted figures such as Sir Trevor McDonald, on the basis of information prepared by an impartial panel.

Responding to the report for the Lib Dems, Treasury spokesman Matthew Taylor said: "This report should not leave Labour under any delusions that they can win a referendum on the euro with just a few short weeks campaigning.

"If Labour are serious about Britain joining the euro, they need to start making the case now.

The report comes as 700 business people, including staff of Carphone Warehouse, Next and Compaq, signed an advert in the national press highlighting what they say are the dangers of entering the euro.

Their advert depicts Chancellor Gordon Brown wearing handcuffs with the text: "If we joined the euro he would lose control of our economy."

See also:

30 Aug 01 | Business
Countdown to euro cash
09 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Blair's euro 'gaffe' that never was
20 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Euro: Blair says not yet
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