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Tuesday, 22 February, 2000, 13:03 GMT
Europe minister's offer to Hague

Keith Vaz: Hague only has to ask and he'll be there

By BBC News Online's Nyta Mann

The government wants to join Conservative leader William Hague on his anti-euro Keep the Pound tour - in order to put the pro-European side of the argument.

Minister for Europe Keith Vaz, who last year launched a tour by bus across the country to promote the benefits of the UK's membership of the European Union, said Mr Hague "only has to ask" and he would join the Tory leader on the road.

"I mean, I'm more than happy if he'd like me to come on his tour to join him," Mr Vaz said in an interview with BBC News Online. "I'm more than happy if he wishes to denigrate the achievements of what we have achieved as a nation in Europe to put the other side. He only has to ask."

William Hague on his anti-euro tour
"I'm extending the olive branch through the goodwill of the BBC, and if [the Tories] wish to take me up on it, diary commitments permitting, I will be there with them."

The minister accused the Tories, whose tour has so far only involved one engagement in St Albans, for which Mr Hague used a customised truck, of having launched an inferior copy of his own bus tour.

"I'm flattered that William Hague has decided to imitate what we did last year in going round the country," Mr Vaz said. "The big difference of course is that we were on the bus for five days and we conducted 25 engagements."

"Mine was an all-singing, all-dancing visit round the country where we sat and engaged with the British people in a positive way. I also engaged with those who did not support the campaign to explain membership to the British people."

He also accused the Conservative leader of harming the UK economy with his Keep the Pound campaign.

"What the Tories are doing is they are damaging the British economy with this campaign. They're telling the rest of Europe: 'Don't engage with us, don't trade with us, we don't want to be involved with you'. That is very dangerous."

Click here to read BBC News Online's full interview with Keith Vaz.

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See also:
22 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Mister Europe
22 Feb 00 |  Business
Brown's euro timetable
21 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
3m jobs 'dependent on EU'
15 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Maples mars Hague's euro roadshow
15 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
The circus comes to town
14 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Tories launch currency roadshow
15 Feb 00 |  UK
Maples wreaks his revenge

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