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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 June, 2003, 21:34 GMT 22:34 UK
Ministers reach euro decision
Gordon Brown arriving for the Cabinet meeting
Mr Brown said the UK's economic interest would come first
Cabinet ministers have come to a decision on the UK's membership of the euro after a long meeting at Downing Street, Chancellor Gordon Brown has said.

Ministers had gathered to hammer out one of the biggest decisions of Tony Blair's premiership as they considered the case for joining the single currency.

The decision they reached will not be made public until Monday, when Mr Brown will announce it in the Commons.

But it is understood the ministers accepted the chancellor's recommendation that economically the time was not right.

Mr Brown said: "We are all resolved that the decision on the euro must be taken in the national economic interest, and it will be the national economic interest that will be the determining factor.

The UK's euro verdict
A need-to-know guide

"We are all resolved that nothing must be done that will put the stability of the British economy at risk. Indeed we want to entrench that stability for the long term for Britain."

Mr Blair's official spokesman echoed the comments, saying the euro decision "will be made in the national economic interest".

But shadow chancellor Michael Howard said the decision would simply be a reflection of who emerged the victor in a "bitter" row over the issue at the heart of the cabinet.

"What we hear won't be decided on the basis of Britain's national economic interest, it will be based on the outcome of the furious factional infighting that is tearing this government apart," he said.

Referendum question

Ministers have waded through 1,738 pages of Treasury background studies - weighing about a stone - looking into the implications of the UK replacing the pound with the euro.

At Thursday's meeting they spent two hours and 40 minutes looking at major issues surrounding the euro such as the housing market, jobs and inflation.

Mr Brown said all the relevant documents would be published on Monday morning so voters could look at the background to the government's decision.

The UK's five tests
Convergence with eurozone
Enough flexibility to adapt
Impact on jobs
Impact on financial services
Impact on foreign investment

He said he hoped it would lead to an "open and widespread" debate in the country at large.

It is believed the Treasury's assessment of the euro says that not all its five economic tests have been met - ruling out a referendum on the currency this year.

The big question is whether the final decision will leave open the possibility of a poll during the next two years, and ahead of the next general election.

Election on way

Mr Brown is said to favour putting off a poll until after the election, while Mr Blair is said to be ready to put off the general election until 2006 to allow for the euro vote.

BBC political editor Andrew Marr said he doubted a referendum would happen before an election.

If Tony Blair still really wants to get this country into the euro, he's going to have to fight a general election and win it first
The BBC's Andrew Marr

"The truth of the matter is that next year, Britain is going to be convulsed by this very, very difficult and controversial decision about the European constitution.

"And the year after that we're heading towards the general election.

"After delaying for six years it's quite hard to see this government suddenly rushing it... effectively, if Tony Blair still really wants to get this country into the euro, he's going to have to fight a general election and win it first."

The BBC's Andrew Marr
"There was no protest by Europhile ministers - they emerged with one message"

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