Blair must pledge to join euro, says Monks

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John Monks, the general secretary of the TUC, launched a bitter attack on Tony Blair's "half-hearted" support for the euro yesterday and called for a vigorous government campaign to join the single currency.

John Monks, the general secretary of the TUC, launched a bitter attack on Tony Blair's "half-hearted" support for the euro yesterday and called for a vigorous government campaign to join the single currency.

In his most scathing remarks to date on Mr Blair's policy of "prepare and decide", Mr Monks said it was time for Labour to make the political as well as economic case for UK membership. He also complained that ministers often treated unions like "an embarrassing elderly relative", as he became the first ever TUC leader to address the Liberal Democrat party conference.

To loud applause from the delegates, he said that Mr Blair would not win "hearts and minds" in a referendum campaign by simply saying that the euro was good for business.

"We should be clear that joining the euro is as much about politics as it is about economics. We have got to win the political argument too," he said.

Mr Monks said that Britain faced a stark choice between United States-style "wild west" capitalism and the European tradition of the welfare state, employee rights and environmental protection.

"If we are to win a vote it has to be not just for the euro, but for the wider European project too. It must be a people's Europe, not just a Europe for bankers, boardrooms and bureaucrats," he said.

"What we value in this country, the health service, the welfare state, good public services, an effective planning system, environmental protection, the very kind of thing Al Gore rightly wants for America are the fundamental characteristics of the European model. We should export our system rather than uncritically import theirs." He added: "We have a stark choice. But I know that Britain's unions and the Liberal Democrats are on the same side of that choice."

Mr Monks pointed out that unless an energetic pro-euro campaign was launched, there was a real danger of Britain once again missing an historic opportunity to shape Europe's future.

"Some of us wish that we were in the euro already. But the realpolitik is that we will have to win a referendum sometime after the next election," he said. "Of course it will mean that we will have joined too late. It seems to be our historic role to sign up to every major European initiative too late to really help shape it."

In a further warning to Mr Blair, Mr Monks said that the Liberal Democrats and the TUC had "moved closer together" on a range of issues from the minimum wage and union recognition to welfare reform.

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