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Wednesday, 6 September, 2000, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Kennedy slams anti-euro campaign

The No campaign - "frankly appalling", says Kennedy
A new campaign group formed to fight against British entry into the European single currency has been branded "arrogant" by Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy.

Mr Kennedy, a staunch supporter of UK entry into the euro, said the No campaign's opposition to a referendum on the single currency was "frankly appalling".

I believe British people will see it is to their advantage we should be at the heart of Europe. Dangerous talk costs jobs

Sir Ken Jackson
He said: "Their main aim is to prevent the government from calling a referendum on the single currency but this is a decision of such magnitude the British people should have the final say.

"It would be a denial of democracy and deeply arrogant to say to people the issues are too complex for them to understand."

No campaign launched

Mr Kennedy's remarks followed this week's launch of the No campaign which has the backing of two anti-euro groups: Business for Sterling and New Europe, and is led by former foreign secretary and SDP founder Lord Owen.

Earlier this week Lord Owen criticised the idea of holding a referendum immediately after a general election, calling on Prime Minister Tony Blair to think "very hard" before doing so.

Charles Kennedy
Kennedy warns about job losses
"I don't exactly know what Tony Blair's mind is. I think he'd like to go into the euro but doesn't want to pay any political price for risking doing so," Lord Owen told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme.

But at a meeting of the Britain in Europe group, Mr Kennedy warned that failure to join the euro could have grave implications for British jobs, inward investment and trade.

He said: "Only a month ago the president of a Japanese electronics giant voiced his concerns that Britain had still not made a commitment to join a single currency. He is just the latest in a line of senior business leaders who take exactly the same view."

Mr Kennedy also launched a thinly veiled attack on the government's position on the single currency, chiding politicians who supported British membership of the euro but kept silent about it.

They were "ducking their responsibilities" and doing the country a "grave disservice," he said.

'Gambling with jobs'

Mr Kennedy was joined by Sir Ken Jackson, general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, who warned the forum that between one and three million jobs would be at risk if Britain did not join the euro zone.

"I am not prepared to gamble up to three million jobs. Britain is good for Europe and Europe is good for Britain.

"I believe British people will see it is to their advantage we should be at the heart of Europe. Dangerous talk costs jobs," he said.

The two men's comments will be widely seen as an attempt by pro-euro campaigners to recapture the agenda in the week that not only saw the launch of the No campaign but also the unveiling of the Tory Party's draft manifesto.

On Tuesday, Conservative leader William Hague underlined his party's determination to keep the pound in the medium term, saying a Tory government would safeguard sterling for at least the next parliament.

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See also:

04 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Owen warns against early euro poll
06 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Lib Dems unveil social justice manifesto
05 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Tories raise election heat
04 Sep 00 | Business
Anti-euro campaign launched
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