Cook pledge to ease passage of single currency

The Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, said yesterday that the Government, which holds the EU presidency in the first half of next year, would do "everything in its power" to make sure the single currency gets off to a sound start "whether we are part of it or not".

Mr Cook also said in an interview with Le Monde that Britain should join Economic Monetary Union if it proves to be a success. His comments echoed remarks that he made earlier this year but they represented a warmer attitude to EMU than the Labour position in the election campaign.

He went on, broadly, to back the French position in the debate on post- EMU management of the European eco- nomy. If there is a single currency, with a central bank deciding monetary policy, Mr Cook said, the powers of EU finance ministers should be reinforced, to allow a matching economic strategy devoted to "employment and growth". This is the argument deployed by Paris and supported by other EU countries, but resisted by Bonn.

The Foreign Secretary said EMU raised difficult financial and economic questions for Britain. It was not "appropriate" at this stage to speculate on when the Government might put the question of membership to the British people. The possibility of a referendum before the 1999 launch date had not been excluded but, with 18 months to go, it would have a serious impact on the Government's crowded timetable of priorities.

Mr Cook also refused to comment on 2002 - the year when euro notes and coins begin to circulate - as a possible British target date. But he added: "If the single currency is launched, and if it is a success, I have already said, that, in the long term, Britain should join."

His comments, and other European actions and words by the new Government, drew an approving editorial from Le Monde: "Great Britain is no longer kicking for touch. It wants to play in the middle of the European field." The most important clue to the changed attitude across the Channel was Mr Cook's statement that he would do all in his power, as EU council president next year, to ensure the success of EMU.

The odds for Europe's single currency starting on time in 1999 have improved over the past month and optimism among commentators has rarely been higher for a core launch group of six countries, a Reuters survey showed yesterday.

An exclusive poll of the views of 49 economists and political analysts across Europe gave an average likelihood of 82 per cent that EMU would start on time in January 1999, compared with an average rating of 80 percent in April.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific