The Danish referendum changes nothing

'Europe is a success story, and a successful euro is good for Britain and for British jobs'
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Britain's policy on the euro is the same today as it has been since 1997. The Danish people have taken a decision for Denmark. The British people will decide what is best for Britain.

Britain's policy on the euro is the same today as it has been since 1997. The Danish people have taken a decision for Denmark. The British people will decide what is best for Britain.

We respect the decision that the Danish people have taken. The referendum campaign was hard-fought, and both sides argued passionately and sincerely. The result was close and unpredictable up to the last moment. But one thing was predictable - the obvious glee of the Tory Eurosceptics. They meddled in the Danish referendum because they want to deny the British people their own referendum. It does seem odd that the very people who stress sovereignty and the right of the British people to make their own independent decisions now seem to be saying that Denmark should decide for Britain.

We won't let the Eurosceptics take away our right to choose for ourselves. The Danish referendum changes nothing in Britain. It doesn't alter the fact that it is in Britain's interest to keep our options open. We won't let the British people lose out by opting out now, as the Tories want.

In principle, Britain should join a successful euro. In practice, the economic tests must be met. The tests boil down to one key question: will joining the euro be in our national economic interest? It is too early yet to answer that question conclusively. Plainly, Britain should join the euro only if the economic conditions are met. That is why our policy remains to assess the five economic tests early in the next parliament. The Government, Parliament and the British people will make up their own minds.

No one should feel threatened by offering the British people a choice. But the Eurosceptics see choice as a threat. They revel in the choice the people of Denmark have now made, but they aren't prepared to risk giving the British people the same choice. When they say no to the euro, they mean no to a referendum and no to democracy. They would rather spread scare stories about a European "superstate" than lay the true facts before the British people.

The Tories want the euro to fail because they want Europe to fail. But Europe is a success story, and a successful euro is good for Britain and for British jobs, whether or not we are in it. More than three million jobs in this country now depend directly on our membership of the EU. Some 59 per cent of our exports go to the EU, including 64 per cent of the food and drink we export and 90 per cent of the cars.

The truth is that the Eurosceptics want to take Britain out of Europe entirely. They say we could join Nafta instead, but to do that we would have to pull out of the European single market, which accounts for £240bn of our annual trade, in return for negotiating a new deal with a bloc that accounts for just £80bn. For many people in this country, out of Europe would mean out of work.

The Danish vote does not change the fact that 5,000 American and Japanese companies invest in the UK because it is the main gateway to the European single market - which will soon expand to half a billion consumers when the Eastern European countries join. It does not change the fact that seven of our top 10 export markets are in the euro-zone. Only this week, Nissan warned again that currency instability is a threat to its UK investment.

What the Tories ignore is the secret of Britain's success. We have put this country in the unique and enviable position of being a bridge between Europe and America. We are not going to let the Eurosceptics blow up that bridge. The more influence we have in Europe, the stronger and more competitive we are in the rest of the world.

Under this government, investors can invest, secure in the knowledge that Britain will continue to be a leading partner in Europe, and secure in the knowledge that investment and jobs are two of our five economic tests for recommending euro membership.

The Danish vote does not change the fact that engagement in Europe is best for Britain.

We have made Britain a leading player in the EU. There will be no return to isolation under this government. Britain is now listened to with respect as a country committed to making a success of the European project.

Because of this, we are getting real results for the hard-working people of this country. When we signed up to the social chapter of the Maastricht treaty, the Eurosceptic fantasists said that would bring about the collapse of British industry. I haven't noticed that over the past three years. What I did notice was the million new jobs we have created in Britain since we joined the social chapter.

Under Labour, Britain is setting the agenda in Europe. We set the agenda for jobs and e-commerce, which commits the EU to full employment and will see millions of new jobs created across Europe, and we have also set the agenda for the pan-European fight against drugs and crime.

So, British people have nothing to fear in Europe, and nothing to fear from the euro. We have to be sceptical about the Eurosceptics. We have to remember that, in their scale of priorities, British people's jobs do not come high up the list.

A prosperous Europe is good for Britain. And a successful euro is good for Britain. We must ensure that Britain can make the right choice at the right time, not be denied a choice for all time.

The people of Denmark have voted according to their national interest. When the time comes, the British people will take a decision in Britain's national interest.

* The writer is UK Government Foreign Secretary