Ministers urged to 'sell' benefits of EU to prepare for euro referendum

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Peter Hain, the minister for Europe, has urged colleagues to "sell" the benefits of the European Union in an attempt to prepare the ground for a referendum on the euro.

At a meeting in Downing Street, Mr Hain told 30 special advisers to ministers that members of the Government should include more references to Europe in their speeches and highlight how the EU helped Labour to achieve its domestic policy objectives.

He said: "We should stress the EU's practical benefits. Europe is not just a foreign policy issue; it is about domestic policies as well."

Mr Hain cited polling conducted for the Foreign Office showing that the public wanted more information on the euro and suggested that the Government should play a bigger role in ensuring people were better informed. He intends to enhance the role of a group he chairs, called Minecor, which includes the ministers responsible for Europe in each Whitehall department. This co-ordinates the Government's response to EU issues affecting more than one department and may now play a role in promoting the EU's benefits.

Yesterday the European Commission said national governments had not lived up to their promises on economic reform. In a report, the Commission warned that member states and the European Parliament must now act to close a "delivery gap" if the Union's credibility was not to suffer.

Meanwhile Ian Taylor, a pro-European Conservative MP, reopened the split in Tory ranks over the euro by visiting the European Parliament in Strasbourg to rally support for British entry into the single currency. Mr Taylor, chairman of the European Movement, said: "I am here trying to build an all-party alliance for getting across to the British public that we cannot afford to drift along with the Government. We who believe entry into the euro is crucial have to raise the tempo of the debate. If that means moving ahead of the Government, so be it."

* The majority of Labour backbenchers want an early referendum on Britain's entry to the euro, according to a survey of 100 MPs by BBC Radio 4.

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