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Tuesday, 22 January, 2002, 19:59 GMT
Labour euro split emerges
Shop in which euro is accepted
The euro has been available since 1 January
A group of 30 Labour politicians including 28 MPs have urged the government to concentrate on the "real priorities" for Britain and ignore the "costly distraction" of the euro.

The call, in a letter to the Guardian newspaper, coincides with the creation of a network of pro-euro Labour MPs who are to push for UK membership of the single currency.

Anti-euro Labour politicians
Harold Best
Ronnie Campbell
Harry Cohen
Jeremy Corbyn
Michael Clapham
John Cruddas
Ann Cryer
John Cryer
Ian Davidson
Denzil Davies
Terry Davis
Hilton Dawson MP
Lord (Don) Dixon
David Drew
Bill Etherington
Dr Ian Gibson
Tom Harris
Lord Healey
Kelvin Hopkins
Alan Howarth
Terry Lewis
Alice Mahon
John McDonnell
Austin Mitchell
Alan Simpson
Dennis Skinner
Llew Smith
David Taylor
Mike Wood
Jimmy Wray
The Labour Movement for Europe, an offshoot of the Britain in Europe campaign, will be putting the case for the principle of joining the euro.

Meanwhile former Conservative deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine has called for a stronger lead from the government in terms of arguing the case for the euro.

Labour has so far succeeded in concealing splits in its ranks over the issue of the single currency.

While in recent years the Conservatives have publicly wrangled over the issue, a diversity of views within Labour has been kept largely hidden.

The letter to the Guardian was seized upon by the anti-single currency No campaign.

A spokesman said that "make your mind up time" was looming for Mr Blair and Chancellor Gordon Brown on the issue of the euro.

He added that it was now "likely the government will have abandoned or embarked upon its dream of a referendum by the end of 2002".

That came as two other Labour MPs - Gwyneth Dunwoody and Diane Abbott - voiced their opposition to joining the single currency.

One of the signatories to the Guardian letter, Ian Davidson, said: "There are quite strong views among a number of our colleagues.

Case building

"You cannot simply drift into being pro-euro without considering what the alternatives are.

"It's our job to put our heads above the parapet and open up the debate a bit. We intend to build on it."

A wider debate is also what Lord Heseltine was pushing for during a speech in Westminster.

Lord Heseltine
Mr Heseltine will urge the prime minister to make the case for the euro
Following on from a recent opinion poll which suggested a majority might be prepared to vote yes in a referendum if ministers and business leaders backed membership, Lord Heseltine urged Mr Blair to begin a campaign for British entry into the euro.

The Tory peer said: "All we get is brief and counter-brief from different factions within a divided government.

"It is time to end this cavilling. Only the government can conduct a process of explanation and encouragement that can move public opinion.

"Recent polls clearly show that the public mind here, just as in Sweden and Denmark, remains wide open to persuasion."

Meanwhile Bill Rammell who will chair the Labour Movement for Europe group said the principle for the euro needed to be argued so that if the chancellor's five economic tests were met Labour MPs could "hit the ground running".

Pro-euro case

"With the euro now a reality for 300 million people in 12 European countries it is time to start giving people in Britain the facts," Mr Rammell said.

"It is vital that the wider Labour movement is armed with the facts and figures to argue the pro-European case effectively.

"With the government committed to making an assessment of the five economic tests within 18 months, we have that time to explain the case to the Labour party and the wider community so that our members are ready to campaign when the time comes."

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22 Jan 02 | Business
21 Jan 02 | Business
20 Jan 02 | Politics
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