Monday, April 07, 2003

Neil Kinnock Predicts No UK Euro Vote Before 2005

My own feeling is that I'd be surprised if the euro passes the five tests, but I'm always willing to be proved wrong. If it does, then I think the arguments used to justify the result will be interesting. Only to be expected really as an opinion since I'm not sure how much economics ol' Neil really understands, and the argument could be read as a diplomatic postponment. Still if there is not going to be a referendum before 2005, and with the problems associated with EMU getting clearer every day, I'd be extraordinarly surprised if there was a yes vote. Still the future could bring two or more surprises, the past already has. But I'm still sticking to my view: Britain won't join the euro, period.

Britain could delay holding a referendum on joining the euro until late 2005 or even 2006, according to Neil Kinnock, vice-president of the European Commission. Mr Kinnock, who has close links to Tony Blair, believes the British prime minister will still try to hold the vote in the lifetime of this parliament. But he says the "five tests" on British euro membership, due to be completed by June, will conclude that more time is needed to gauge convergence between sterling and the single currency. "I think the answer to the tests will be Yes, but when certain things have been accomplished," he said in a Financial Times interview. "I think the assessment will be positive. But what we won't have in June is Yes, and here's the date for a referendum."

Mr Kinnock rejects any suggestion that Mr Blair had contemplated holding a "khaki referendum", if a swift and successful war in Iraq had brought him a boost in popularity. "That demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the psyche and politics of Tony Blair," he said.Instead Mr Kinnock believes that a referendum in late 2005 or early 2006 - within months of the June 2006 deadline for a general election - is the most likely scenario."It would give you just a bit of extra time to focus public opinion on the facts," he said. Mr Kinnock, the former leader of the British Labour party, retains close ties to Mr Blair, as well as to Gordon Brown, the finance minister. Many of Mr Kinnock's former lieutenants hold senior positions in Downing Street and in the government. But the EU administration commissioner says Mr Blair has not done enough to prepare British public opinion for a euro referendum. "Not enough opportunities have been taken to provide dispassionate and objective information," he said.
Source: Financial Times

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