PM orders ministers to make the case for joining euro

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair will kickstart a campaign today to persuade the public to support joining the euro when he orders his ministers to make the case for membership.

After criticism that his promised drive to combat "anti-European prejudice" has stalled, the Prime Minister will address the junior and middle-ranking ministers at Downing Street who have responsibility for European issues in each government department. Mr Blair wants to deploy the ministers across the country as part of the "roadshows" announced after Gordon Brown delivered his "not yet" verdict on the euro two weeks ago.

Denis MacShane, the minister for Europe, will tell a separate meeting at Chatham House that all ministers should now be involved in Mr Blair's campaign. "I am not the minister who alone should make the case for Europe in Britain. In fact every minister should be a minister for Europe, arguing in speeches and interviews the need for Britain to be fully engaged in the EU," he will say.

Calling for a "change in our political approach" to Europe, he will say that Britain will not maximise the benefits of EU membership until the country knows more about how Europe works.

Mr MacShane will call on select committees in the Commons and Lords to hold more sessions in Brussels so that the UK Parliament is better informed. "We should stop treating Europe as a faraway place of which we need to know nothing. Ministers can learn from other European nations and we can contribute to EU policy-making in areas like economic policy and job creation," he will say.

The Prime Minister's meeting is intended to allay fears expressed by euro supporters that he has gone cool on the idea of trying to turn round public hostility to the euro.

But the Government's stance on the euro came under fire yesterday from Romano Prodi, the president of the European Commission, who expressed his disappointment at Mr Brown's announcement. He warned that Britain could not continue to be "half in and half out" of Europe.

Mr Prodi told BBC Radio 4 that the Government's decision was a "signal of deep political problems". He accepted that it would be better to delay a referendum than call one and lose it, but insisted the decision was political and not, as the Government maintained, economic.

"I waited quite a while for a positive answer, and the decision has not come, and you know [that] is a signal of deep political problems," he said. "I don't know if it is wisdom, or lack of courage, but I do hope that the decision will come soon because the UK cannot be half in and half out in this important chapter of European policy. Out of the euro, you miss an opportunity of influence." Mr Prodi's remarks reflect growing impatience at Britain's stance among its EU partners.

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