Mandelson: euro membership 'has to be decided'

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Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson insisted today that the contentious issue of whether or not Britain joins the European single currency "has got to be decided".

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson insisted today that the contentious issue of whether or not Britain joins the European single currency "has got to be decided".

One of the Cabinet's most enthusiastic advocates of euro membership, Mr Mandelson was careful to emphasise the Government's "prepare and decide" formula at a speech to a gathering of prominent Labour figures.

But in his speech to the conference, held at the Cranfield School of Management in Bedfordshire, Mr Mandelson made it clear that that decision on membership could not be put off indefinitely.

"Although the Government's policy on the single currency is clearly defined, the question of British membership has got to be decided," Mr Mandelson said.

He added: "But we are self-confident that we have the right policy to prepare and decide. In principle we want Britain to join a successful single currency and, in principle, we can see considerable benefits for our economy which is part of Europe's single market and we are not afraid to say so.

"But the economics are fundamental and the economic tests set out by the Chancellor must be met."

Meanwhile, John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB union, increased the pressure on the Government to take a more definitive position on euro membership.

Interviewed for BBC News 24's One to One programme, he warned that failure to develop the current policy could embarrass the Government during the general election campaign.

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