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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 13 November, 2002, 23:05 GMT
Euro poll hopes dashed
Houses of Parliament against a background of euro notes
Speculation that the government would use the Queen's Speech to fire the starting gun on a euro referendum campaign has proved groundless.

The speech made reference to the euro in one paragraph, again setting out the importance of completing Chancellor Gordon Brown's five economic tests by June next year.


If (the) assessment is positive, we are confident that we can win a yes vote in the referendum

Britain in Europe
The Queen said a decision would be taken on whether to recommend joining the euro once the tests have been assessed.

Government officials have always sought to play down the possibility of an early referendum.

But remarks last month by Commons Leader Robin Cook fuelled speculation that ministers would include euro "paving legislation" in the Queen's Speech, setting up a referendum as early as next spring.

'No surprise'

Mr Cook told reporters "the euro will be in there ... and you will be interested".


It suggests the Treasury is very much in the driving seat and that the five economic tests are being pushed centre stage

George Eustice
The No Campaign
His remarks were later dismissed as humorous teasing.

But they seemed to confirm suggestions earlier this year from then Transport Secretary Stephen Byers.

Speaking at a lunch for female journalists, Mr Byers said that while the Queen's Speech itself may not mention a possible referendum, briefings afterwards might.

Anti-euro campaigners said the lack of progress on a referendum had not come as a surprise.

'Mood music'

George Eustice, director of the anti-euro No Campaign, said: "It doesn't really change things that much.

"It suggests the Treasury is very much in the driving seat and that the five economic tests are being pushed centre stage."

He added: "The government could have used the Queen's Speech to launch a pre-referendum publicity campaign, but they may have thought the mood music was not right.

"With the difficulties in the German economy and the stability and growth pact, they probably don't see it as a good time to push the case too hard."

And pro-euro campaigners said the Queen's Speech changed nothing.

Confident

A Britain in Europe spokesperson said: "As we have consistently said the decision to join the euro will be taken solely on the basis of a rigorous and detailed assessment of the economic tests.

"If that assessment is positive, we are confident that we can win a yes vote in the referendum.

"Iain Duncan Smith's 'no' lobby know that people will choose greater prosperity in the euro and reject isolationism, which is why their greatest fear is that a referendum will be called."

Hain reaction

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain, one of the strongest supporters in the Cabinet of joining the euro, insisted that he was not disappointed that was no enabling bill for a referendum.


Once again the Queens speech has seen the government ducking out, not even proposing a referendum bill to set out how the British people will decide

Matthew Taylor, Liberal Democrats
The former Europe minister who still represents Britain on the convention on the future of the EU, emphasised that it was the first time the government's policy on the single currency had been set out in a Queen's Speech.

"The fact that it has appeared in the Queen's Speech means that that economic assessment will certainly happen before June next year, as we have stated over many years," he told reporters at Westminster.

John Edmonds, leader of the giant GMB union, said he "delighted that the government has committed to assist the five tests by June."

But the decision not to set a euro referendum in motion angered the Liberal Democrats, who have accused the government of dragging its feet on the issue.

'Huge cost'

Lib Dem treasury spokesman Matthew Taylor MP said: "Once again the Queens speech has seen the government ducking out, not even proposing a referendum bill to set out how the British people will decide.

"This delay comes at a huge cost - not just to explaining the case.

"The present overvaluation of the pound against the euro and, increasingly, against the dollar, has cost British manufacturing 500,000 job losses since 1997, the deepest manufacturing recession since 1981 and the longest since 1945.

"Joining the Euro at a competitive rate is the best answer anyone has realistically offered to this crisis."


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See also:

06 Nov 02 | Politics
16 May 02 | Politics
25 Sep 02 | Politics
27 Feb 02 | Politics
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