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Wednesday, 4 September, 2002, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
Blair 'too passive' on euro
Lord Howe
Lord Howe has led the campaign for euro entry
Leading pro-euro campaigner Lord Howe has urged prime minister Tony Blair not to delay a referendum on British entry to the single currency.

The Conservative former chancellor and deputy prime minister said it was "clearly in Britain's interest to join the euro".


I think the agenda has slipped a little

Keith Vaz, former Europe minister
And he spoke of his frustration at the way the issue has been handled by Mr Blair.

"I would not, myself, have allowed my government to approach it so passively over such a long period of time," Lord Howe told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

'Inability to decide'

Lord Howe's intervention comes amid growing pressure on the government to postpone a euro vote until after the next general election.

The Tory peer, a leading member of the Tony Blair-backed pro-euro group Britain in Europe, said he was "sad" that the prime minister had "allowed himself to be delayed for so long" on this issue.

It was time for the government to stop worrying about the opinion polls and get on with assessing its five economic tests.

"I think if the government answers their own questions positively I think that will have a very positive impact on the likely outcome of a referendum," said Lord Howe.

But he said it was difficult to work out Mr Blair's intentions, as he was an "extraordinary combination of sincerely proclaimed commitment in principle and reluctance in practice to take decisions."

International situation

Mr Blair has set a deadline of 7 June next year for the completion of the five economic tests.

He has said he will call a referendum shortly after that, if the tests show it is in Britain's interests to join.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw last week dismissed suggestions that the possibility of military action in Iraq would have any bearing on the decision.

But Downing Street later denied a claim by former Scotland Office Minister George Foulkes that October has been pencilled-in for a euro vote.

A spokesman insisted no decision had been taken.

'Agenda slipping'

Former Europe minister Keith Vaz told Today he thought the chances of an early poll were diminishing.

"I think the agenda has slipped a little.

"If the assessment of the tests in June suggests there is any scope for doubt, I think there will be a strong campaign to put off the decision until after the next election," he said.

On Monday, transport union leader Bill Morris added his voice to calls for a delay.

He said Labour risked losing the next general election if it went ahead with a referendum in the current parliament.

Hopes of a poll in May have been put in doubt by the Electoral Commission, which said it would be unwise for a euro vote to clash Scottish and Welsh Assembly elections.


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03 Sep 02 | Politics
14 Aug 02 | Politics
02 Sep 02 | Business
02 Sep 02 | Politics
01 Sep 02 | Scotland
12 Jul 02 | Politics
04 Jul 02 | Politics
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