None the less, at the European Union summit in Madrid in December, the member states confirmed their intention to permanently lock currencies on 1 January 1999, and to bring in the new pan-European notes and coins - to be called, with a degree of bathos, the "Euro" - at the start of 2002.
The characters: scepticism about monetary union rends both main political parties, though Labour has been more successful in showing a united front. Conservative divisions on the question - in the open ever since Mrs Thatcher's famous No! No! No! - have amounted to anact of ritual disembowelment.
Prospects: emu is dependent on countries meeting the agreed "convergence criteria": inflation, long term interest rates and financial objectives for the amount of borrowing and the amount of debt. But the prospects were damaged earlier this month when it emerged that even the mighty German economy had failed to cut its budget deficit sufficiently - the only country on target was Luxembourg. The question now is whether any government will be able to impose the sort of economic pain necessary to bring about convergence, with most states on the brink of recession. Britain alone with Denmark, meanwhile, retains the right to decide later on whether or not it will take part.Reuse content