Single Currency: Bullish Blair denies softening line on Britain's currency plans

TONY BLAIR came out fighting for the pro-European cause yesterday and insisted that he had not watered down his plans to take Britain into the single currency.

In a keynote speech the Prime Minister insisted: "Britain should join a successful single currency, provided the economic conditions are met. It is conditional. It is not inevitable. Both intention and conditions are genuine."

Mr Blair told the London Business School that the Government's policy on the euro had not changed.

This was seen as a coded rebuke to aides of Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who want to delay a referendum from 2001 to 2003 or 2004. Mr Blair said that Britain remaining engaged with Europe was "not weakness, or the beguiling embrace of European allies; it is stark reality, good old-fashioned British pragmatism that brings us there ... We need therefore to remain engaged at all times; to be building political alliances; to be shaping Europe's development, not continually have it shaped by others."

Following Labour's defeat in last month's Euro-elections, Mr Blair acknowledged that pro-Europeans needed to make the case for full EU participation to a new generation. He attacked the "anti-Europeanism" of the Tories, saying it was "lurching down an extremist path and contemplating a complete withdrawal from Europe". William Hague's policy of ruling out the single currency for this Parliament and the next was "a fatuous piece of fudge".

The Prime Minister pro-mised to lead the Britain In Europe group, the embryo "yes" campaign to be launched in the autumn, and appealed to politicians in all parties to back it.

Mr Blair's speech was welcomed last night by pro-Europeans. In a letter to The Independent a cross-party group of 25 Europhiles, including Sir Edward Heath and Lord Howe, said the speech "paves the way for a historic change in Britain's attitude towards its relations with Europe".

They insisted the views of "an anti-European minority" who wanted to rule out British membership of the euro, and perhaps take Britain out of Europe, was rejected by the vast majority of people.

But Malcolm Bruce, the Liberal Democrats' Treasury spokesman, said the Government's position was "unclear and ambiguous".

Labour's National Executive Committee called for Euro elections to take place on the same day as local elections, and admitted that the "closed list" PR system had alienated the party's activists and voters.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?