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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 June, 2003, 16:55 GMT 17:55 UK
Blair unveils pro-euro group
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown at their joint press conference on the euro earlier this month
Blair and Brown say in principle Britain should join the euro
Prime Minister Tony Blair is to chair an inner group of cabinet ministers tasked with overcoming obstacles to Britain joining the single currency.

The European Strategy Committee will have regular meetings to co-ordinate the pro-European effort across Whitehall.

Reports suggest members of the committee will include Chancellor Gordon Brown and mainly pro-euro ministers, although Number 10 has refused to confirm names.

Do not underestimate the government's determination and my personal determination to make sure that Britain plays its full role at the centre of Europe
Tony Blair

But these could include Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Constitutional Affairs Secretary Lord Falconer, and Peter Hain, the Commons leader and Welsh secretary.

The group will push forward the reforms needed to pass the government's five economic tests for euro membership, including reform of the housing market and the development of regional pay bargaining.

Mr Blair gave some details of the committee's tasks at a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.

Economic conditions

He said: "The cabinet committee is a mechanism by which we can make sure that those obstacles that Gordon Brown identified in respect of British membership of the single currency can be dealt with.

"But it also gives us an opportunity to develop the overall strategy for the government for Europe.

"We have not backed off any decision in relation to the single currency. On the contrary, we have reaffirmed our commitment in principle to go in, provided that the economic conditions are in the right place.

'Full role'

"Particularly at the moment, with the dangers our world faces, particularly at the moment in Europe, when we have 10 new countries coming into the European Union, this is the last time for Britain to walk away from the European Union.

"And do not underestimate the government's determination and my personal determination to make sure that Britain plays its full role at the centre of Europe."

Mr Blair said the government had always made it clear that joining the euro would mean an economic union and "the economics have got to be in the right place".

"But don't either doubt our commitment in principle to joining because it is the right thing for Britain, not just for Europe, but the right thing for the British national interest," he said.

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