Wednesday, September 8, 1999 Published at 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Euro group denies climbdown
Opponents say BiE's website shows the change
By BBC News Online's Ed Main
A leading pro-European pressure group has denied claims that it has shifted its public stance on the single currency in order to ensure government support.
The anti-single currency group says BiE has radically changed its Website and public statements to persuade Tony Blair to front its cross-party campaign this Autumn.
It also points to the recent appointment of BiE Campaign Manager Simon Buckby, who masterminded Labour's last general election advertising campaign.
But he says it has now downgraded that to saying it only wants to get the UK to keep its options open to join if the currency proves a success.
'Conditions have not been met'
Mr Buckby told BBC News Online that the UK should not join the euro if it flopped.
"At the moment we are not recommending that people should say, 'Let's join the single currency.' Conditions have not been met."
He declined to give reasons why voters should vote Yes in a referendum on signing up, saying that was not the campaign's job.
However, at the start of July, BiE's Website described the group as "a unique organisation set up to inform the British people about the European single currency and convince them that Britain should join".
That quote has been removed along with background documents extolling the euro's benefits.
BiE's Website now suggests that the currency has yet to prove itself.
One quote from Lord Marshall, that has survived, says: "Britain in Europe never has been wedded to the idea of rushing into the euro, regardless."
BiE 'not misleading public'
A BiE spokesman denied any shift in position. "We are not misleading the public," he said.
He added: "Simon's appointment draws a line under whatever went before. Whatever has gone before is now irrelevant."
But Mr Herbert insisted that the group had significantly changed its public stance.
But Mr Herbert, said: "I think BiE is trying to pretend that they are something that they are not."
"I think that is misleading to the British public and business."
He rejected BiE's allegation that he was "making mischief" to try to conceal his own hidden agenda of working to get the UK to leave the European Union.
BfS wanted Britain to be in the EU, but not the euro, he said.
Blair 'has set conditions'
The euro had a bumpy ride on the money markets following its birth in January.
Mr Herbert, a former Conservative Party worker, says Labour has also had its fingers burnt by the Tory victory in the European elections.
"I think it is clear that the prime minister in joining BiE set a number of conditions and one was that the campaign should not upset his wish to get the Labour government re-elected," he said.
BiE has, on several occasions postponed the start of its main campaign when Mr Blair will share a platform with senior pro-Europeans from other parties as well as union leaders and business figures.
Press reports have claimed Mr Blair delayed backing BiE as he did not want to be involved in a single-issue group and sought a wider campaign on the benefits of the EU.
Downing Street denied pressurising BiE to alter its aims.
UK Politics Contents
A-Z of Parliament