Cook: 'I'll continue to argue case for joining the euro'

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Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, will continue to argue in favour of the principle of Britain entering the euro between now and the general election, he declared yesterday.

Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, will continue to argue in favour of the principle of Britain entering the euro between now and the general election, he declared yesterday.

Despite a new pro-European consensus against mounting a pre-election campaign in favour of entry, Mr Cook made it clear he would not be deflected from making the case for British membership in the right economic circumstances.

Mr Cook said in an interview with The Independent: "I have made the case for why in principle joining the euro could be of benefit to British industry and therefore to British society if the economic conditions are met. I've done that a number of times in the past few years and I will continue to do so."

In a series of European visits starting on Monday, he will be the first foreign minister to visit Austria since the European Union lifted its boycott in protest at the presence of Jörg Haider's right-wing Freedom Party in the government.

He will use trips to Denmark, Greece and France to develop Mr Blair's call for a "declaration of competences" which would define those functions best carried out by the EU and those best pursued by individual member states.

Reinforcing Tony Blair's refusal, on Wednesday, to rule out entry into European monetary union in the next parliament, Mr Cook dismissed speculation that the Government could be persuaded to abandon its "prepare and decide" policy to match the Conservatives' pledge not to enter the euro before the election after next. He said: "We believe in principle that the case for joining has been made, but what's important is that we should get the economic conditions right first."

Mr Cook rejected speculation that a referendum in the next parliament was unlikely given the Danish "no" vote, the weakness of the euro and Mr Blair's remark that he would not vote "tomorrow", saying: "If the assessment is that the economic conditions are met, there will be a referendum."

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