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Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 16:07 GMT
Euro peer pressure mounts on Blair
Swedish prime minister Goran Persson
The Swedish premier is a euro enthusiast
Pressure is likely to increase on Prime Minister Tony Blair to hold a referendum on the European single currency after Sweden said it could a hold a euro vote as early as next year.

The idea that we are going to have the same currency as Lithuania and the Czech Republic within four years is insane

Business for Sterling
Sweden's pro-euro prime minister Goran Persson wants to capitalise on the introduction of euro notes and coins by holding a vote as soon as next Spring.

Eurosceptic Denmark has said it also plans to hold a new referendum on the single currency after earlier rejecting the currency.

If both countries vote yes, Britain will become the only EU country outside the new currency.

'Isolated and alone'

The news comes as Europe Minister Peter Hain warned that Britain could eventually become the only member of an enlarged 25 country European Union outside the single currency.

I think 2003 will be the year, but don't ask me precisely when

Goran Persson, Sweden's Prime Minister
Speaking in the Guardian newspaper, Mr Hain, who is making a two-day visit to eastern European countries seeking EU membership, said he expected the 10 candidates to have become full members by 2004.

"This means that by the second half of the decade, if we were to follow the policy of (Tory leader) Iain Duncan Smith of ruling out joining the currency, we could be faced with the position of Britain alone of the 25 EU countries remaining outside the single currency. We would be isolated and alone."

Mr Hain has previously caused controversy by suggesting British euro entry is inevitable.

'Extraordinary blunder'

However, a spokesman for the anti-euro Business for Sterling campaign called Mr Hain's remarks a 'most extraordinary blunder'.

Europe Minister Peter Hain
Hain: wants EU enlargement
"The idea that we are going to have the same currency as Lithuania and the Czech Republic within four years is insane," he told BBC News Online.

"If the financial markets actually believed that, there would be panic selling of the euro."

He said Mr Hain's comments were "good news" for the no campaign.

He predicted Sweden and Denmark would change their minds on a referendum as the new currency started to falter.

"I suspect they have been drawn in by the PR over the launch."

He added: "As people watch the euro unfold over the next year scepticism will increase."

Danish referendum

Sweden's premier Mr Persson said he did not plan to hold a referendum before spring next year, after this autumn's elections.

"I think 2003 will be the year, but don't ask me precisely when," he told reporters.

The Danish government has ruled out a new Danish referendum on euro membership this year but a poll could still be held before a Swedish vote.

'The time is right'

In a newspaper interview, foreign minister Per Stig Moeller said: "I cannot rule out that a Danish referendum on euro membership comes before the Swedish, which probably will take place in late 2003 or in 2004,"

In September 2000, Danes rejected swapping the crown for the euro in a referendum by 53 to 47%.

With Denmark assuming the EU presidency on 1 July, it was not possible to arrange and focus on a euro vote this year, Mr Moeller said.

"Time is right for a new referendum when we have practical experiences in how unpractical it is not to be in the euro," Mr Moeller said.

The BBC's Dharshini David
"There could be another obstacle"
See also:

03 Jan 02 | UK Politics
UK can't hide from euro - Blair
26 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Euro target date denied
04 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Mandelson: Blair can win on euro
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