Peter Hain, the minister for Europe, launched a charm offensive yesterday to convince women of the merits of the EU, as a new opinion poll confirmed that they are more hostile to the euro than men.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour, Mr Hain called on European institutions to outline the "practical benefits" of EU membership and conceded that "the image of Europe is of men like me arriving in limousines at meetings".
Although officially not linked to prospects for a euro referendum, the minister's plea illustrates the crucial role women could play in deciding whether or not Britain joins the single currency.
New polling released by the European Commission yesterday revealed that, in the three EU countries outside the euro, opinion among women is more negative than among men. In the UK, Sweden and Denmark 56 per cent of men and 40 per cent of women said they would be happy if the euro became their currency, and 35 per cent of men and 48 per cent of women said they would be unhappy.
The UK figures for both sexes show 39 per cent happy to join and 51 per cent unhappy, with 10 per cent not knowing. However even in Britain 72 per cent of people believe that the single currency will be introduced. Britons overwhelmingly believe that the euro will be convenient for travellers, make purchases easier in the eurozone, facilitate price comparisons and reduce transaction fees.
A poll the Foreign Office commissioned last year showed that 55 per cent of men and just 41 per cent of women thought that Europe was a good thing.
During the referendum that rejected plans for Danish membership of the euro in September 2000, women were more hostile than men.
Yesterday Mr Hain said that the lack of enthusiasm among women was one of the results of the "failure of the big institutions in Brussels to connect with the citizens". He will raise the issue with the convention on the future of Europe which is being chaired by the former French president, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.
However Mr Giscard's convention has itself been attacked because fewer than one in five of its representatives are women.Reuse content