Currency approval

TONY BLAIR gave a clear signal yesterday that Britain will accept the findings of the European Commission approving 11 countries for joining the European single currency, in spite of it being attacked as a "fudge" by the Conservatives, writes Colin Brown, Chief Political Correspondent.

The report raised the possibility of Europe launching a "soft" single currency which the Tories believe threatens to drive the pound higher, and risk recession in Britain, and could lay down the battle lines between the parties for the general election.

Mr Blair expressed concern about the "very high level of the pound" for exporters, but firmly rejected claims by William Hague, the Tory leader, that the Commission report had "fudged" the debt ratios of eight of the 11 countries.

The Prime Minister told MPs: "There are a range of criteria to take into account. When we take our decision as president of the European Commission we will do it on the basis of the report."