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"The policy on the Euro is to say and do nothing until after the election"
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Friday, 20 October, 2000, 05:59 GMT 06:59 UK
Euro: Blair says not yet
Tony Blair
Blair meets Korean leaders in Seoul
The Prime Minister has said that he is not ready to join the euro at the moment.

If faced with the choice of joining the European single currency now, Tony Blair has said he would say no because the five economic tests laid down by Chancellor Gordon Brown have not been met.

Public opinion will make its mind on the facts in the end but as I keep saying to people, if you come along to me with an opinion poll and said 'Do you want to join the euro today?', I would say no

Tony Blair

Speaking after the euro crashed to its lowest ever level against the dollar on Thursday, Mr Blair told reporters in South Korea that when the British people were offered a referendum on the issue they would decide on the facts.

He said: "Public opinion will make its mind on the facts in the end but as I keep saying to people, if you come along to me with an opinion poll and said 'Do you want to join the euro today?', I would say no."

The prime minister's remarks came as he arrived in the South Korean capital of Seoul for an Asia-Europe summit.

No comment on intervention

But he refused to be drawn on comments by European Central Bank president Wim Duisenberg, who indicated that any further intervention to prop up the troubled single currency was unlikely.

Mr Blair said: "I don't think it's wise to comment on that."

Later, Mr Blair touched again on the issue of the euro in an address to South Korean businessmen.

Acknowledging the importance of the single currency to foreign investors, he explained Britain's decision to stay out of the first wave, and outlined the conditions in which the UK could join.

In favour in principle

He said: "In principle, the government is in favour of joining a successful single currency."

Mr Blair reiterated that membership was dependent on meeting Mr Brown's five economic tests and the agreement of the British people in a referendum.

He also took advantage of the meeting to address criticisms of his administration at home, saying his government remained focused on the "big choices" and describing himself as a "committed long termist".

In what will be seen as a bid to shift the recent focus from government in-fighting, Mr Blair said he "would not back down on the big choices".

"Political leaders who fail to face up to the big questions and bounce around from short-term issue to short-term issue, fail the first test of leadership".

"Insulting British electorate"

But Mr Blair's comments on the euro drew criticism from the shadow chancellor Michael Portillo.

Mr Portillo, speaking in London, said: "How many times does Mr Blair think he can insult the intelligence of the British electorate and get away with it?

"This is a classic example of spin over substance. Tony Blair may be changing his tactics again, but he's not changed his real plan to scrap the pound and join the euro.

"Mr Blair's government is committed in principle to joining the euro. The Prime Minister will seemingly never learn. His credibility ratings have sunk because people have seen through this kind of political posturing."

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See also:

19 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
UK and North Korea forge ties
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Britons think euro entry 'inevitable'
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19 Oct 00 | Business
ECB pledges silence on intervention
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