Leading Article: Blair's case for Europe still funks the euro test

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The Independent Culture
THE HISTORY of Britain in Europe, as the Prime Minister so carefully reminded us yesterday, is one of constantly rejecting developments, only to have to clamber ignominiously on to the bandwagon once it is under way.

Exactly so. So why doesn't Mr Blair come out and commit us to joining the European monetary union at the earliest possible opportunity, or at least talk of the possibility early in the next parliament? He has repeatedly said that the Government's policy has remained and will remain the same: we want the euro to succeed and we are prepared to join when - but only when - the economic conditions are right.

That may suit a party that needs to sing from a single hymn sheet. But as an anthem it does nothing to rally support among a public that has been fed with doubts about the strength of the euro, and even the benefits of Europe. The public suspects what every political reporter knows: that the debate on the euro within the Government reflects less the economics of when to join, than the politics of when to commit ourselves. Gordon Brown wants to separate the euro question from the next election entirely, by playing it long in the future. His Prime Minister still wants to keep his options open.

Six weeks after the disastrous Euro-elections, Tony Blair has at least recognised that he must come out fighting. He has also understood, as some of the Europhiles within his party have not, that this is a battle not just over the euro, but over Britain's membership of Europe. In attacking Britain's membership of the European monetary union the Conservatives are quite deliberately fanning the flames of anti-Europeanism. But the hesitation at the heart of government policy is still there and, as long as it is, we shall be doomed to repeat the mistakes of history.