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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 May, 2003, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Cabinet receives euro verdict
Blair and Brown
Blair and Brown have already held private talks with each cabinet minister
Cabinet ministers are at last finding out Chancellor Gordon Brown's official verdict on whether the UK should adopt the euro.

The Treasury's assessment of its five economic tests for joining the single currency is being sent to members of the cabinet on Thursday afternoon.

The ministers earlier this month waded through the 2,000-plus pages of the Treasury's 18 studies on the issues around the single currency.

Now they have another 200 pages of weekend reading ahead of next Thursday's decisive cabinet meeting on the issue.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, who hold opposing views on euro entry, are united in attacking the government's decision-making process.

Wrangling continues?

Mr Brown is apparently poised to deliver a "not yet" verdict on euro entry when he goes public with his announcement on 9 June.

And London's Evening Standard newspaper reports on Thursday that the Treasury assessment says four of the five economic tests have not been met.
The UK's euro verdict
A need-to-know guide

The key question now seems to be whether the government leaves the door ajar for a referendum before the next general election.

The Sunday Telegraph newspaper this week claimed Mr Blair had won his battle to leave open that option - and was ready to put off the election until 2006 to allow for the euro vote.

Pro-euro cabinet ministers are understood to have used their individual meetings with Mr Blair and Mr Brown to push for the legislation to allow for a referendum to be included in the next Queen's Speech.

Winning the debate

The cabinet came together for the first time last Thursday to discuss the euro question.

After that meeting, Mr Blair said: "Each member of the cabinet and today the cabinet as a whole has made clear their support for the principle for joining the single currency, with its potential benefits to Britain, to jobs and industry and standard of living of the British people.

"And in addition each has made it clear that that decision, of course, must be based on the rigorous assessment of our long term economic interests."

The prime minister, speaking at his monthly news conference, went on to suggest that a referendum on euro membership could be won.

"I'm not sure that public opinion is in quite the settled place that some of those that are viscerally opposed to Europe say," he said.

"I think when people reflect upon it they understand that it is not sensible for Britain to separate itself out from Europe."

'Charade'

Conservative shadow chancellor Michael Howard argued the whole euro verdict process was fundamentally flawed.

"Even if the tests were met today, how can anyone know whether they would also be met in two or five or 10 years time," he said.

"That is why Mervyn King, incoming Governor of the Bank of England, said it would take two or three hundred years worth of data to prove true convergence.

"That is why the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, Gus O'Donnell, said that the tests would never give a clear and unambiguous verdict in favour of British entry to the euro."

Pro-euro Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Matthew Taylor on Thursday said everyone knew Mr Blair and Mr Brown were divided over holding a referendum before the next election.

"The cabinet consultation is just a charade to cover this titanic struggle," he said.

"The truth is that the decision boils down to a matter of judgement about Britain's best interests, and the only real way to resolve this conflict is to put it to a referendum so the British people can decide."




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Polly Billington
"The decision is supposed to be based on the economics but some people think that is a smoke screen"



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