We Will See the Century out with the Pound, Says Brown; MOVE TO JOIN SINGLE CURRENCY ON HOLD Has Business Had Time to Prepare? Biggest Decision since the War
Byline: JOHN DEANS
BRITAIN will not enter the European single currency until after the next General Election, Chancellor Gordon Brown made clear yesterday.
He moved to shut down mounting speculation about the Government's intentions over EMU by effectively ruling out any plan to dump sterling for at least five years.
He confirmed it was 'highly unlikely' that the Government would sign up in time for the first wave of monetary union scheduled for January 1999.
And he declared: 'If we do not join in 1999 our task will then be to deliver a period of sustainable growth, tackle long-term weaknesses in the UK economy and to continue to press for reform in Europe.' The decision also means there will not now be a referendum on the issue this side of 2001 or 2002, when Tony Blair is expected to face the electorate for the first time as a sitting Prime Minister.
Mr Brown's comments, made through an interview with The Times, were meant to convey that both he and Mr Blair have decided to put the whole question on hold during their first term of office.
His comments are is designed to end damaging speculation, make it clear to Britain's European partners where the Government's intentions lie, and block attempts by the new Tory leadership to says Brown
exploit continuing uncertainty and undermine the Government's credibility on the vexed issue.
Last night, as the news broke, senior Treasury insiders confirmed his message and Downing Street also signalled Mr Blair's support.
An aide said: 'What it means is that the Government's position on EMU remains unchanged.' The Government's position, still to be finally debated and endorsed by the full Cabinet, will be spelled out in more detail by Mr Brown in a
full-scale Commons statement before Christmas.
Mr Blair is expected to put his own gloss on the policy when he meets EU leaders at a summit in Luxembourg in December.
But the first confrontation over the stand against early membership will come on Monday when he meets German Chancellor Helmut Kohl at Chequers.
The axis powers at the heart of the Community - Germany and France - have been piling pressure on the new Government to abandon its hesitant approach and to
line up with most EU states and move into the single currency club in just over 14 months' time.
But the Premier and Chancellor have clearly ruled out such a move as too risky to contemplate until after the next election. …