Sterling Is Safe in My Hands Claims Blair; PREMIER DENIES POLICY CHANGE OVER CURRENCY DESPITE HAILING EURO

Daily Mail (London), January 30, 1999 | Go to article overview

Sterling Is Safe in My Hands Claims Blair; PREMIER DENIES POLICY CHANGE OVER CURRENCY DESPITE HAILING EURO


Byline: JOHN DEANS

TONY BLAIR insisted the pound was safe in his hands yesterday as he prepared to sign up to a new European election manifesto hailing the virtues of the single currency.

Meeting with other EU socialist leaders in Vienna, the Prime Minister declared that monetary union would be good news for Europe, and that it was in Britain's best interest for the new euro to triumph.

Today he will put his name to a manifesto for the June European elections proclaiming monetary union as crucial to bolstering economic stability, boosting jobs, and

keeping interest rates down across the EU.

But as he prepared for 24 hours of talks in the Austrian capital, Mr Blair dismissed claims that he was preparing to abandon sterling, or that he was moving closer to a decision to take Britain into the single currency.

Insisting that he would act only when 'it is in the national interest to do so', he stressed that the manifesto 'doesn't represent any change in British policy'.

But as he spoke Mr Blair came under pressure from Neil Kinnock to set a deadline for EMU membership.

The former Labour leader, who is now EU transport commissioner, said that establishing a target date would be a good way of putting life and energy into the debate.

'There are questions about the practicalities but I'm in favour of stimulating a more thorough and knowledgeable debate,' he said.

Mr Kinnock's remarks followed those earlier in the day by Alan Donnelly, leader of Labour's MEPs, who said a set date - he suggested Janu- ary 1 2003 as a possibility - would 'focus the minds of the public'.

But Mr Blair said calls to 'just pluck a date out of the air' for signing up ignored economic reality.

'Of course it's a political judgment, but it's also an economic judgment,' he added. 'The best acts governments undertake are not through face alone, they are also based on facts.' And the Prime Minister insisted: 'We are where the vast majority of the British people are on this issue. …

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