Blair, Brown agree Britain not ready to join euro

Published May 21, 2003


London - British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown have decided that Britain is "not yet" ready to join the euro, former International Development Secretary Clare Short said Wednesday.

With Britain less than three weeks away from a June 9 decision on whether to adopt the euro, Brown has made it clear that he expects the verdict to be based on the results of the government's five economic tests for joining.

Brown, seen to be more euro-sceptic than Blair and a potential successor to the prime minister, is widely expected to conclude that Britain is not ready to switch to the common currency already used by 12 of the 15 European Union members.

Speculation has now centred on whether the Labour government will leave open the possibility of a referendum before the next general election, due by mid-2006 at the latest.

"I understood that the prime minister and the chancellor had agreed that not yet, but keep open the possibility, depending on economic developments," Short said referring to euro entry.

"We should all focus on what is in our country's interest.

"There is not an ideological position, surely, on the euro. If it is in our economic interest, then we should recommend a referendum. If it (Britain) is not ready yet, we should keep it open," she told BBC radio.

Short left the government red-faced on May 12 when she resigned and personally attacked Blair for failing to keep promises over the role of the United Nations in the reconstruction of post-war Iraq.

Her remarks come after the europhile Former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson, a key ally of Blair, reportedly said the prime minister had been "out-manoeuvred" by Brown on the issue of the single currency.

The British media reported that, in an off-the-record briefing to journalists, Mandelson on Tuesday called Brown a political obsessive and warned that failure to join the euro would do "incalculable" damage to Britain. - Sapa-AFP

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