What the papers say

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The Independent Online

In Britain

Financial Times

The only way for Mr Blair and Mr Brown to demonstrate credibly that they have moved from a passive ambition to join EMU to an active desire to achieve entry will be to commit the Government to removing the barriers they think remain within a specified timescale ... Mr Brown likes to portray his stewardship of the British economy as a radical departure from past mediocrity. In 1997 he said: "Divisions within governments of both parties, and hence indecision, have made British policy towards Europe, over many years, inconsistent and unclear". His audience should ask in what respects this Government is different.

The Times

There has been much loose chatter about target dates, timetables and a "road-map" to euro entry. These devices would only leave the impression that what the Prime Minister has long said was an "economic decision" about an "economic union" was in the process of mutating into something else. If a cartographical metaphor is required, then what the Chancellor should produce is an "ordnance survey" map, not a road-map. He should lay out the territory with absolute candour, point out all the landmarks of significance, be specific about the complexity of the contours and not commit himself to any journey until, at least, the economic time is right.

Daily Mail

Scrapping the pound is not a matter of "if" but "when". Oh yes, there's the small detail that the final decision on whether to join the single currency rests with the British public, whose hostility to the idea of handing control over our economic destiny to an unelectable and unaccountable European Central Bank grows by the day ... The Prime Minister [has] suggested that although the electorate is against joining the euro he is convinced he is right and is determined to sign us up - just as he insisted on war against Iraq. Such patronising arrogance is breathtaking.

The Daily Telegraph

There was never really any doubt about it. Today, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will confirm what the City has been saying all along: that Britain should keep the pound. Our economy remains cyclically and structurally divergent from the eurozone; and that divergence, if anything, is growing. Britain is benefiting from a "Baghdad bounce" while the eurozone seems set for yet more hard times. Germany is floundering in its second recession in two years, with unemployment heading towards five million. Meanwhile, Portugal and Ireland risk overheating because they are unable to raise interest rates.

The Guardian

Labour's fatal flaw: Blair and Brown are still rivals. For the most part, the relationship between Mr Blair and Mr Brown has been one of great reward for Labour, and for both men personally. But it is a relationship with hamartia, a fatal flaw. Both men contribute to that: Mr Brown by his ceaseless annexation of control within the government, and Mr Blair by his limitless reluctance to make a stand against it. Most of the time, as with all flaws, there is a case for leaving well alone. But a decision on the scale of the euro should not be hostage to that policy. The problem with fatal flaws is that, in the end, they catch up with you.

The Sun

We won't be joining the euro just yet. Gordon Brown will say the decision is for economic reasons. Like the fact we've got high employment, low inflation and a sound economy - while the eurozone's in a mess. The fact is that Tony Blair has been forced to make the RIGHT decision for the WRONG reason ... Brown ... is the most successful Chancellor Labour's had. He doesn't want to see his good work thrown away by handing control of our economy to foreigners with a vested interest in dragging Britain down to their own dismal level.

The Economist

Tony Blair's power lies in his persuasiveness. He persuaded the Labour party to abandon many of its long-held left-wing convictions. He persuaded voters to elect a party in 1997 which, when last in office, had brought the country to its knees. He persuaded Britain to go to war with Iraq. But persuasion depends on trust; and, if that goes, so does the basis of Mr Blair's power. What happens, for instance, if he eventually calls a euro referendum and, facing a nervous electorate, says: "Trust me. I know the right thing to do" - will they?

The Scotsman

The "neither in nor out" status creates profound uncertainties for business investment. And changing the relevant inflation index ... means UK pensioners with incomes linked to inflation will get less because the European index calculates UK inflation as lower. Another result is that the Bank of England will be able to cut interest rates faster. The good side to that is obvious, but the danger lies in adding to the overheating in the housing market and the subsequent crash that must eventually come. Far from being Decision Day, what we have is yet another round of prevarication regarding the euro. Better to bury the issue for a decade and get on with life.

In Europe

Le Figaro (France)

This decision is a political defeat for the Prime Minister, who was intending to propose a referendum on the euro to the British during the course of the present Parliament ... Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are aware of [the] risk. It is to avoid their European partners doubting their goodwill that the "no" decision is dressed up as a "yes, but not yet". The United Kingdom, which replaced the Julian calendar with the Gregorian calendar 170 years after Italy, Spain and France, is entitled to ask how much time they need to adopt the common currency of Europe.

Die Welt (Germany)

As always, the British economy orientates itself more towards the American economic model. While industry at home loses its importance, consumption accounts for two thirds of the economic power. Thanks to a flexible labour market, the rate of unemployment continues to be only 5 per cent. So far the British financial market has not suffered under the euro and probably will not in the future. But even influential bankers in London's financial district, the majority in favour of entering the euro, have no problem if the UK holds on to the pound.

Irish Times

Mr Blair's failure to offer a convincing vision of his European policy has strengthened the more sceptical case put by Mr Brown, a tension which is widely believed to extend to political rivalry between them. Ireland has a major economic and political interest in seeing this uncertainty resolved, preferably by a British decision to join the euro soon. But the realistic expectation must be that the Cabinet is unlikely to hold a referendum before the next general election in 2005 or 2006.

La Libre Belgique

The decision of the British authorities is not a reflection on the merits of the euro but a reflection of Britain's internal economic circumstances, on the one hand, and political-national considerations on the other. And the question could quickly return to the table. The entry of the United Kingdom into the euro, in any case, would be good for European and Belgian businesses, which have often been penalised by the strength of the pound in the past. Taking the Eurostar or Ryanair, spending some time on the banks of the Thames and having a cup of tea in front of Big Ben would do less damage to our wallets. Long live London!

Tageblatt (Luxembourg)

Tony Blair fears Great Britain will find itself marginalised in the EU if she is not part of monetary union. But he has been forced to admit that the time is not right to hold a referendum. Mr Blair would have to reckon with a press largely hostile to the euro, three quarters of which is controlled by three conservative magnates: the Australian-American Rupert Murdoch, the former Canadian and naturalised Briton Conrad Black, and the British Lord Rothermere. But Mr Blair is not in good shape to turn public opinion. His arguments about the still unfound Iraqi WMD and accusations of manipulating public opinion have strongly damaged his credibility.

In the United States

The New York Times

Americans think of Tony Blair, their wartime ally, as a Prime Minister guided by his convictions. Yet on the decision he describes as Britain's most momentous in a generation, Mr Blair has acted like an equivocating suitor who consults an abacus before deciding on marriage. Continued procrastination would be damaging to the eurozone and Britain. One reason the negative consequences of staying out have not been apparent is that Mr Blair has kept markets convinced it is only a matter of time.

The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

Since its launch as an international currency nearly 18 months ago, the euro has worked remarkably well. It's worth more compared to the dollar than it used to be. It simplifies travel for tourists in the 12 European countries that use it. And it has saved businesses the sometimes considerable costs of converting one currency into another. The uncertainty about whether, and if so when, Britain will adopt the euro is as much about politics as economics. The decision has been driven by hard negotiations between Brown and Blair, old friends who now head rival power centres within the Labour Party and the Government.

International Herald Tribune

Continued procrastination would be damaging to both the eurozone and Britain. Though Mr Blair is largely drawn to the euro for political and strategic reasons, he must also start making the case long pressed by business leaders, that the euro would be good for the economy. One reason the economic advantages of the euro have not been apparent until now is that the markets have accepted Mr Blair's assurances that the adoption of the currency is only a matter of time. The Prime Minister needs to devise a detailed plan for a transition to the euro, and then sell it to the British public with the same passion he showed in selling the war in Iraq.

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