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Friday, 26 October, 2001, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
Euro target date denied
Euro notes
Mr Hain will outline the benefits of EU-membership
The UK government has no secret target date for a referendum on joining the single currency, Europe Minister Peter Hain has insisted.

Mr Hain dismissed reports alleging that Downing Street's European policy adviser Roger Liddle told MEPs at a private dinner in Brussels this week that the timing of a referendum had been "pencilled in" for spring 2003.


As Europe minister, I think I would know if some deadline had been set, if some date had been set to target for a referendum

Peter Hain
The comments come as Mr Hain begins a tour of the UK aimed at persuading people of the benefits of Britain's EU membership.

Dubbed the 'tour de Britain', groups opposed to the euro have portrayed it as a preparatory step to a referendum on the UK joining the single currency.

A spokesman for the anti-single currency No Campaign said: "The government should be sorting out our dreadful public services instead of wasting time and taxpayers' money on a pro-euro tour".

'Policy unchanged'

Interviewed ahead of his departure, Mr Hain was questioned about Mr Liddle's reported remarks and insisted government policy remained unchanged.

"As Europe minister, I think I would know if some deadline had been set, if some date had been set to target for a referendum," the minister told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I can tell you flatly that is not the case. There is no target date and nor could there be because this is a decision that has to be made in Britain's economic interests.

Peter Hain
Mr Hain will visit Cardiff then Edinburgh
"How could you set an artificial deadline and then discover whether Britain's economic interests happen to coincide with that deadline?

"That's not the way to go about it."

The suggestion there is a target date has also been played down by a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair.

And Commons leader Robin Cook has said: "I would be a little cautious about building too strongly on remarks which are being reported at third-hand from a dinner."

Mr Hain is meeting a range of people in Cardiff on Friday including local business people and students.

Speaking in the Welsh city, he said people should ignore opinion polls showing public opposition to the euro.

"The idea that it is a foregone conclusion is completely wrong. There is everything to play for."

Stressing the need for close Euro-links, Mr Hain continued: "Don't let the Eurosceptics wrap themselves in the flag. You can be patriotic and pro-European."

'No hype'

The Europe debate should be based on "straightforward arguments in straightforward language, without hype, spin and prejudice".

Mr Hain's tour of Britain continues in November when he visits Edinburgh.

Campaigners who have urged the government to be more proactive in advocating euro membership have welcomed the tour.

Former Foreign Office minister Tony Lloyd told the Today programme the move was "overdue but very welcome now it's coming."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
John Monks, TUC General Secretary
says people have got to be warmed up to the idea of EU membership
David Marsh, British German Forum
believes that Britain should develop stronger political ties with Europe
See also:

26 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Roger Liddle, centre stage once more
30 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Hain hints about euro entry
30 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Clarke: Euro poll not party political
17 Jul 01 | UK Politics
'Cut Euro-babble', says minister
14 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Tories launch currency roadshow
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