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Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 18:58 GMT
Q&A: The UK's euro timetable
The UK government seems to be gearing up for a referendum on the UK adopting the euro - but what is the likely timetable?

Has the government decided to hold a referendum on the euro?

The short answer is no. Or possibly yes. The official line is that a decision will be taken if and when Tony Blair and Gordon Brown decide five economic tests have been met.

What are the five economic tests?

In November 1997 Gordon Brown outlined five economic tests by which the government would judge whether the UK economy would benefit from joining the euro.

They include whether joining a single currency would be good for jobs, for foreign investment, and for the City, and whether the UK economy was marching in step with other European countries, and whether it had enough flexibility to adjust if it wasn't.

When will a decision be taken on whether the five tests have been met?

The government has said it will announce whether or not the UK meets the five economic tests by June 2003 - and if it does, it would ask the country's voters to decide in a referendum whether to join the euro.

Assuming the tests have been met, what happens next?

In 1999, Tony Blair said there would be four months between calling a referendum and the vote being held.

As Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats all want to see a referendum, the normal parliamentary procedures could be telescoped and the necessary legislation rushed through.

If the nation votes yes to the euro, how soon will it before the new currency is in use?

Mr Blair has said there would be 24 months between a yes vote and the new currency being introduced.

This means that if a referendum is held on 1 May next year - and the country votes yes - Britain could join the euro in November 2004.

Euro notes and coins could be introduced by May 2005 at the earliest.

The pound could be withdrawn completely by November 2005.


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