Prodi says euro launch will convert UK to single currency

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The Independent Online

The advent of euro notes and coins in 12 European Union countries tomorrow will persuade Britain to opt for membership, the president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, predicted last night.

He said that familiarity with the currency would overcome British anxieties, but argued that introducing the euro was a political decision which would prompt more economic co-ordination and the creation of a powerful "Mr or Ms euro" post.

"The number of people who will come to Britain from Ireland, France, Germany will oblige British people to be confident with the euro in the way that they are confident with the dollar," Mr Prodi told The Independent.

He added: "They will have to deal with it as a familiar problem – not as a strange decision from the moon. People will start saying 'why don't we use the same currency as our neighbours?'" The currency will be used by 300 million people.

The political debate over Britain's entry into the euro was reignited however, when Simon Murphy, Labour's leader in the European Parliament, declared that joining the single currency was "inevitable".

Peter Hain, the minister for Europe, insisted the Government would not be rushed into deciding on when to hold a referendum. He said the positions adopted by those wanting to join immediately, without any economic tests, and Eurosceptics set against entry, were "crazy".

The Prime Minister said in a new year message last night that it was "massively in our interests" that the single currency succeed, given Britain's close trade ties to Europe.

The European Commission hopes to use the political momentum created by the distribution of notes and coins to increase economic coordination. Mr Prodi said: "The common currency is not an economic decision, it is a political decision. As a consequence, you must, sometime in future, have coordination of the instruments of economic policy."

The euro will help to create "a common identity" among Europeans, he added, giving a new momentum to European integration.