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Thursday, 14 November, 2002, 17:03 GMT
Blair 'ducks out' over euro
Houses of Parliament against a background of euro notes
Tony Blair has "ducked out" over the euro after a one-sentence mention of the currency in the Queen's Speech, the Liberal Democrats have claimed.

The party's treasury spokesman, Matthew Taylor, said the delay came at "a huge cost".

The Queen's Speech repeated the government's line that a decision on whether to recommend UK entry to the euro in a referendum would be made once five economic tests have been assessed.

The government plans to report back on the five tests by June 2003.

Answer

Mr Taylor 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."

He said the best answer to the situation would be to join the euro at a competitive rate.

The Liberal Democrats had hoped the Queen's Speech would be used to announce the laws needed to pave the way for a euro referendum.

Commons Leader Robin Cook last week fuelled referendum speculation when he said the speech would include "interesting" details about the euro.

Driving seat

There was a muted reaction to the lack of anything more substantial than the oft-repeated line on the five tests from the main groups for and against UK entry to the euro.

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."

Confident

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

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."


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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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