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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Labour MPs launch anti-euro drive
Euro notes
Labour voters views will be shown in a new poll
A band of Labour MPs have launched a new campaign group against the euro to up pressure on Tony Blair to delay holding a referendum on Britain adopting the currency.

Thirty-four MPs and peers, including former Chancellor Denis Healey and ex-minister Frank Field, formed Labour Against the Euro (LATE) on Wednesday.

There is a substantial body of Labour parliamentary opinion which believes the time is not right to join the euro

Ian Davidson
Labour MP

The group argues a new opinion poll suggests Labour could lose 111 seats if Tony Blair made it clear he wanted Britain to replace the pound with the euro soon.

But the pro-euro Britain in Europe campaign has dismissed the group as the "usual suspects".

LATE brings together Labour figures who want to ensure there is no euro referendum until after the next general election but who would campaign against entry if there was.

'Economics all wrong'

Ian Davidson
Ian Davidson says the time is not right for a euro poll
Chairman Ian Davidson, MP for Glasgow Pollok, told BBC News Online: "There is a substantial body of Labour parliamentary opinion which believes the time is not right to join the euro, that the economics are all wrong at the moment."

Mr Davidson said: "A majority of Labour members and Labour voters support our view that the priority of the government should be delivering public services."

Instead, joining the euro could jeapardise investment in schools and hospitals because it would impose limits on spending and borrowing.

Poll findings
22% of Labour voters want euro entry in this Parliament
55% open minded but do not want to join before election
20% think UK should never join

Chancellor Gordon Brown has said his five economic tests for euro entry will be judged by next June but has refused to be drawn further on the timing of a possible referendum.

But Mr Davidson said there had been "considerable pressure on the chancellor from members of the cabinet and others to try to dilute the tests".

The group has listed 111 MPs whom they calculate, through demographically weighting the results of a new opinion poll, could lose their seats if Tony Blair pushes for early euro entry.

Britain in Europe's spoof poster dismissing LATE
Britain in Europe urge Tony Blair to ignore the new group
Such forecasts had to be treated with some scepticism, said Mr Davidson but it did show the "electoral health hazards" over the issue.

The opinion poll, conducted by ICM for the No Campaign and unveiled at LATE's launch, suggests 19% of Labour voters would not vote for the party if the government favoured joining "in the near future".

Of the 500 people questioned, 55% thought Britain should not join before the next election but said they were open minded on the issue, compared to 22% wanting to join in this Parliament.

The euro was ranked joint bottom of a list of 11 priorities in the survey - with only 3% seeing it as a priority, compared to 88% for the NHS, 61% for education and 41% for crime.

'Profound split'

Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas, a former Downing Street adviser, said he was backing the group because the euro was a "distraction" from public service priorities.

That was partly because of the "quite profound" splits it could create among Labour's elected representatives and its voters, said Mr Cruddas.

Harlow MP Bill Rammell, who chairs the Labour Movement for Europe and is on the Britain in Europe board, said most Labour supporters wanted a referendum and the majority would vote yes.

"The prime minister should disregard the views of this very small group of Labour MPs and honour the Labour commitment to a referendum when the economic tests are met," he said.

Former Labour leader and EU commissioner Neil Kinnock rejected claims the euro was a distraction from public services.

"Even if Britain stayed out of the euro as they want, UK governments would still have to balance the public spending budget in order to avoid ruinous risks to credibility and confidence," he said.

See also:

10 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Labour new anti-euro group
18 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Thatcher urges 'retreat' from EU
22 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Labour euro split emerges
20 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Tory chief: Euro tests are 'rubbish'
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