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Wednesday, 22 May, 2002, 09:18 GMT 10:18 UK
Is Britain ready for the euro?
The government is planning to introduce a Bill in the next session of parliament to hold a referendum on the euro, a senior minister confirmed on Thursday.

Journalists were told that the announcement on the referendum would not be included in the Queen's Speech, but that a date for the poll would be set that day.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, in an interview with the BBC's Newsnight, admitted that a referendum on Britain's entry into the single European currency was "getting close".

Mr Blair said the Treasury's five economic tests on euro entry would be decided upon by June 2003, and if the tests are met the issue will be "put to the people".

The anti-euro 'no' campaign have scorned Mr Blair's insistence on the five economic tests. Campaign director George Eustice accused the prime minister of pursuing a euro changeover "for political not economic reasons".

Do you think Britain is ready for the euro? Would you like to see a referendum held on the issue next year?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Let's get a life and get the euro

Michael Grange, UK
Everyone seems afraid to embrace the European Union and its ideals. What's wrong with a United States of Europe? What's wrong with the euro? If people believe that losing the pound equals losing oh-so precious "Britishness", then they evidently do not trust our country or its heritage. Let's get a life and get the euro.
Michael Grange, UK

When the referendum was held about joining what was then the Common Market, it was dressed up as nothing more far-reaching than joining the local Co-op, and just look at what that simple vote has been used as justification to bring about. I often wonder if politicians actually LIKE the people they are supposed to represent; they certainly seem to like manipulating them to achieve their own personal ambitions and agendas.
Dave Godin, UK

People in the UK need to be aware of the inflationary effect of the euro - especially on items they purchase with their 'free' money. Many of the basic staples that make up the inflation basket - rents, mortgages etc have not risen particularly. BUT the supermarkets, bars, nightclubs here in the Netherlands have raised prices substantially with the introduction to the euro - in my estimation by as much as 20%. So it is 'good' for businesses - but not so hot for consumers.
Michael Peel, Netherlands

How can we possibly be READY for it when there is no readily available information? There are many opinions but sadly very few based on actual fact.
Anne, UK

I think England should keep the good old English pound.
M. Burgess, Canada

I've just decided! It will be good for the UK to join the Euro. Yes, If we have the Euro I can travel anywhere in Europe without changing my cash - I could go to France, Spain, Italy and not have to change my currency each time! Brilliant! Of course I might be unemployed or have a currency that's worth less than it was before. Or perhaps my mortgage interest rate will go through the roof due to ECB decisions. Or maybe inflation might will run out of control due to an overheating economy. But hey, at least I don't have to change my money when I go on a holiday I can no longer afford!
Stephen Humphreys, UK

Let's get this straight - the EU dictatoriat doesn't care whether we are "ready" for the Euro or not

Tom Burrows, UK
Let's get this straight - the EU dictatoriat doesn't care whether we are "ready" for the Euro or not. Their aim is to terminate Britain as a self-governing sovereign country, and unfortunately our own government has turned traitor and seems to be on their side. Therefore we're getting the Euro whether we're ready or not. The "referendum" will be rigged if necessary in order to produce the required result. Only when it's far, far too late will the British people suddenly realise that they are under occupation by a malevolent power.
Tom Burrows, UK

I hope the UK chooses the Euro sooner rather than later

Johanna MacDonald, Canada
I hope the UK chooses the Euro sooner rather than later. For all intents and purposes for those living outside of Europe, the UK is part of it. Distinctly different, yes, but to me that doesn't make a reason as to why Britain shouldn't embrace being part of an economic community. Plus it would make me more likely to travel in Britain if I didn't have to worry about changing money (or coming back entirely broke).
Johanna MacDonald, Canada

Ok. Let's get a few things straight. The voting public are not idiots. But many politicians are trying to mislead us!
1. America is our biggest export market, not Europe - so why are we being told otherwise?
2. Finance is our biggest money maker, we are after all one of the financial capitals of the world. All will be lost to Frankfurt if we join Europe.
3. This country will always be behind the rest of Europe with our public services as we will fund countries who the European government see as worse off than us.
Claire, UK, Bristol

Not being in the Euro offers the UK economy a pressure valve of an adjustable exchange rate, therefore retaining an independent currency is a benefit. Tony Blair will only call a referendum if he is fairly certain he will win, because if he loses, he will probably have to resign. Given his evident indecisiveness, he is unlikely to go for a referendum until the opinion polls indicate perhaps a 65-35 split in favour of the euro, and as this is unlikely, Blair will not be the man to take us in.
Rick Makin, UK

Having visited France recently (where I used to live) and having spoken to a friend who spent some time in Spain, Europe is no longer a cheap place to either shop or go on holiday. My family used to pop over to Calais to stock up on French groceries, previously so much cheaper than in the UK but since the Euro, it is no longer the case. Spain used to be a bargain- basement place to go for good food, a good time and so on, but 'tis no longer true. I realise that life isn't all about shopping and eating, but it was nice for us at the lower end of the salarial scale to have a nice, sunny annual holiday without taking out a mortgage. The same will happen to Britain if we join the Euro. We are already overpriced for our foreign friends, but it will become impossible for those who live here, given that you can bet prices will be hiked up (as has happened in Europe) yet salaries won't. Stay out! Nobody here wants it, and nobody there cares.
Elizabeth Coldwell-Hall, Yorkshire, England

The process of joining the Euro involves signing away all UK assets, for instance, gold reserves, to 'underwrite' a currency which is controlled and based in Frankfurt. I can understand the nationalist feelings against the Euro.
Winston, UK

If Blair is so convinced the pound must be abolished why has he refused ever to debate the constitutional issues in public? Secondly all my European friends are incensed at the rise in prices across Spain, France and Germany since their currencies were abolished. Five to ten per cent on everything "rounded up" and if the euro is so good why are there more unemployed and on strike in Germany since 1920 and more strikes in France? The euro is a political project and despite its deep flaws parliamentary control of taxation and British control of interest rates must never be replaced by a foreign committee which cannot be removed by ballots; only by violence.
Peter Watson, England

Just because a TV may cost 100 euros in 1 country and 90 in another doesn't mean the price will fall to the lowest figure

Stu Forster, England
I am so sick of the constant lies being peddled by the euro-traitors in this country. What utter rubbish to suggest "transparency" is a reason to join. Just because a TV may cost 100 euros in 1 country and 90 in another doesn't mean the price will fall to the lowest figure everywhere or people will shop in the country with the lowest price! Tripe! It's like suggesting someone is going to drive from London to Bristol because they can get the car fixed cheaper! Wake up and smell the coffee people, this is nothing other than a plot by Blair and friends to simply become the first President of Europe. Vote for the euro? Never!
Stu Forster, England

Britain should wait sereral years to really see the effect the Euro has on the other strong economies of Europe. No rush.
Robert Solomon, USA.

I think that the euro isn't for the good of the people - it's for power hungry people. I think the EU is ok but I would like to keep the USA more of a closer friend then Europe. I do not see the need in it and the pound is stronger then the euro. Let's keep Britain Britain.
Harriet, GB

What is it with British people and Europe? Europe isn't some government just across the water, it includes Britain, Britain has an equal say in all European matters. The usual racist German remarks' appear in a number of mails, that somehow Germany is running Europe. Why do people in Britain equate joining a single currency with giving up all power? Let me ask you all something, how much control do you currently have over the value of the pound in the world economy? That's right, close to none. The ultimate irony is people from the US criticizing the Euro, when they are a collection of states using one currency. How about one US state having it's own currency? How silly would that be?
Richard B, Belgium

Some people say it's an opportunity. Others say it's a risk. One thing is for sure: if the UK stays out and the euro is a success we can always go in later but if the UK goes in and everything goes pear-shaped we're screwed. So the logical balance of advantage lies with voting 'no' for the foreseeable future.
Douglas Smith, Edinburgh, Scotland

I am continually shocked at just how opinionated people who are totally ignorant of the facts are. Most of the comments I have just read are based on re-gurgitated newspaper articles -most of which have a political axe to grind.
Stephen Wilson, UK

I believe that the Euro Sceptics got it wrong when they say we are handing over control to the EU. I believe that without the Euro the British Economy will be more susceptible to world economic forces and not joining the Euro may lead to the break-up of the UK. When a referendum occurs most people in England will probably vote against the Euro while most people in Scotland and N.I. will vote for the Euro. This will only strengthen parties like SNP and lead to further devolution.
Sean, UK

I must confess, against all my sentiments, that the euro seems to work

Hans Slobbe, Netherlands
At first I was strongly against Holland giving up its strong guilder, but after some time I must confess, against all my sentiments, that the euro seems to work. Of course giving up part of your history is not nice, but, to all in Britain, look at the prices you pay for your food, electronics, cars, etc. Also look at your social benefits and compare them. Also look at the comments in this forum of people from the US, Do I smell fear for losing the battle with the Eurozone? Also, Britain is a part of Europe, and should be a leading force in all European matters. And mind, your "transatlantic brethren" only have eyes for their own good, and will only be one of a kind as long as it suits them. Please people of Britain, share, for Europe's benefit and stability.
Hans Slobbe, Netherlands

Most of the comments in favour of the Euro are mainly of two flavours. One - it's nice and easy when you go to the continent and travel between countries - Whoopie . Two - So many of the European countries are former great powers who resent the fact that the USA is the only superpower around nowadays. Too many of the Euro leaders suffer from USA-envy and are prepared to give up control of their sovereign rights and also to force this onto others. Why don't we become a part of the USA? We share a common language, many of our ideals are similar, a similar market etc. Bring it on Tony!
Stephen Lynch, Wales, UK

The bottom line is that the Brits think that the Germans, the French and the other EU countries have no idea of managing an economy. This is, of course, reinforced by a few distant advices from the US. Experiences and the performances of economies, however, says a totally different thing. Keep up your ignorance, but let the millions of people who adopted Euro get on without belittling them.
Tridiv Borah, Germany/India

The days of the mega-currencies are here. Countries outside the dollar or euro zones risk being sidelined. I understand why people are very patriotic about keeping the pound, but at the end of the day what is the use of keeping the pound if you don't have any in your pocket because there is rampant unemployment? We need the Euro.
David Patrick, UK

I'm not an economist, but maybe another respondent who is can give a reason: Why can't Britain use the Euro currency, but retain control over its own interest rates etc? That way wouldn't you get the convenience, without the loss of self-determination?
Alex C, Australia

Forget the Euro, let's have a referendum on leaving the EU.
Dave, England

It is interesting to note that many of the people who are in support of Britain changing over to the euro speak of its convenience over anything else. That is a strong reflection on the kind of society we have become - fast, detached and convenient. As long as it suits our current needs, most of us can't see beyond the end of our nose. Canadian politicians frequently raise the idea of adopting the American currency, much to the disgust of most Canadians. Control your own destiny! You will have to live with the results long after Tony Blair is gone.
Jo-Ann Mandat, Canada

Germany had the biggest economy in Europe before the Euro came along, and continues to have the biggest economy in Europe after it. There has been no doom and gloom collapse or catastrophe that the "end of the world is nigh" Euro-sceptics keep prophesising for us if we join. Citizens of Germany and other strong economies such as Holland have made the change to the Euro and have just got on with it. They are now free to do business throughout Europe without the cost and expense of constantly changing currencies. When I add up the commission charges from the bureaux de change as well as the credit card company, I suspect these amount to over ?20 on my recent 3 day trip to Holland alone.
Dan, UK

Many people see the euro as a fashion item that they must have just to keep up with our European neighbours

John Brownlee, England
I'm afraid many people see the euro as a fashion item that they must have just to keep up with our European neighbours. But if it is a fashion item then I see it as a ball and chain. Let's treat the euro like any other major currency and get on with making a success of running our economy under our own control rather than at the whim of yet more bureaucrats in an all powerful central bank in Frankfurt.
John Brownlee, England

Living in Strasbourg in France very close to the German border for over 10 years, I can see the advantages of the euro from the point of view of people here. We can now shop in either country using the same currency. The main difficulty for Britain is that its economy is different from the other European economies in that many more people in Britain own their homes instead of renting them, so Britain could arguably need different interest rates from those in the rest of Europe. Even though I am a supporter of the euro, I think Britain needs to look very carefully at the question of interest rates before joining.
Paul Malone, France

When you get right down to it, money is money, but it would be a whole lot easier if it were really that simple. I recently bought something online from Australia. It was a pain finding out that the US Dollar, of all things, had sunk just enough to give my merchant a few extra dollars. Exchange rates are a pain in the global economy, which, like it or not, exists. I can understand Britain's unwillingness to join the crowd as the pound is one of the strongest currencies on the planet. But do you really think you'll lose that stability if you add it to the euro? Chances are that someday the whole world will sit down and pick itself a currency. Would you rather it be the euro or the dollar?
Johnathan McClure, USA

Make no mistake, joining the euro will be a huge gamble. We will be surrendering control of the most important levers any country uses to run its economy to a group of people over whom we will have almost no influence whatsoever. You could liken it to trying to drive a car with someone else operating the brake and accelerator - someone you didn't choose and you can't get rid of (and who so far has a pretty poor driving record). It might be a while since I studied A-level economics but it doesn't make sense from just about any economic angle - unless the ultimate aim is to create a single European state - then, of course, it makes perfect sense. Just be sure you know exactly where it's all leading before you vote.
John Parker, England

My main worry is that instead of a balanced debate we will be subjected to bouts of name calling, politicians preying on people's fears and calls to nationalism.
Michael Nicholas, UK

Nobody in the eurozone cares if you join or not - the rest of Europe is busily getting on with the euro while Britain continues to debate it

Eddie Bosano-Andrews, Ireland (ex-UK)
Don't join, nobody in the eurozone cares if you do or not - the rest of Europe is busily getting on with the euro while Britain continues to debate it. We have lived with the euro since January and life is no more expensive than it was in December, except that for the first time in five years I have no plans for a visit home because the UK is simply too expensive. The same goes for travelling into Northern Ireland to shop. The strength of the sterling makes it uneconomical for me to do so. By all means wait 10 years but by then you may find that the door is shut leaving the UK as an expensive offshore island on the fringe of one of the world's two great economies.
Eddie Bosano-Andrews, Ireland (ex-UK)

You Brits would be crazy to accept the euro. By doing so, you would give up control over your fiscal, monetary, trade and other critical economic policies to either an unresponsive bureaucracy or other sovereign nations over which you have no voting or other control.
Tobey Kaczensky, USA

Having seen Glasgow city centre full of Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen fans on Wednesday it made me realise how much simpler it would be if this country did have the euro. There were very few businesses with signs up stating that they would accept the euro and I am sure it did not give a good impression of the city. It has to come so it might as well be sooner rather than later.
Elizabeth, Scotland

Convenience when travelling is not an argument for relinquishing control of your economy

Ed Mann, USA
Convenience when travelling is not an argument for relinquishing control of your economy. Credit and debit cards are for travelling convenience. Let the plastic make it easy for you to move about in Europe. However, when inflation hits Italy, or unemployment surges in Germany, a single currency means that your visit to your local grocer is impacted by these events. If you look at early American history, you will see that there was much unrest during the development of this country due to fiscal instability and social unrest. Protectionism and the escape to the West was a safety valve that kept this country intact while its economic system developed. I don't see what harm there is to wait and see how the euro fares and how Brussels reacts.
Ed Mann, USA

I am an expat Brit working in Switzerland with strong UK ties. I have yet to hear anyone come out with a sound financial reason why the UK should reject the Euro. Most of the objections are based on sentiment. Many who do object have a vested interest in making money on the exchange rate. The strongest argument to go for the Euro from a consumers standpoint is the transparency of the cost of goods from one country to another. The Germans, French & Italians seem to have made the transition fairly easily so why shouldn't Britain?
John, Switzerland

A united Europe is the world's biggest economic force

Paul, UK
A united Europe is the world's biggest economic force. The Euro is the only way to keep up with the US, and yes, that should include political integration too. I'm sure some Californians weren't too happy sharing a currency with Minnesotans or New Yorkers two hundred years ago, but in today's world bigger is better. So please stop this silly nationalism and start thinking globally.
Paul, Cambridge, UK

The Euro will push prices up as consumers won't know what they're getting for their money. Are you sure you want it?
Andy, England

I am for the Euro idea. A strong single currency for Europe will be better in the long run than individual currency blocks. However, until I hear a politician convince me that the UK economy will not have to prop up the huge future public liabilities of the French and German social security systems, and here I mean pensions, I will not vote for the Euro in a referendum.
Jim Magill, UK

Is the benefit of easier trade worth losing control of our interest rates and mortgages?

Mike, UK
The Euro will of course be good for those businesses who trade strongly with Europe. But is the benefit of easier trade worth losing control of our interest rates and mortgages, or to have our economic policy and budget influenced because of rising unemployment in Tuscany or Saxony-Anhalt? No! Britain is ready for the Euro, it always will be. It's also ready to reject it.
Mike, UK

Anyone who thinks the UK should join the Euro should take a long hard look at the state that Argentina is in and see the result of their currency being linked for just a few years to the US dollar.
Erik Bean, England

It's very dangerous to accept or support the Euro on the basis that it is convenient to have one currency when travelling. The real debate on the Euro should be about fiscal and monetary policy, not convenience. Until someone can prove to me that the UK will be better off by being inextricably shackled to the economies of Europe then I will be voting NO.
Dan Mathias, UK

Our company is German Based so we already invoice British customers in Euros. The Euro is already a part of our lives in the UK wether we like it or not. Just simply not joining to "save the pound" is not a real argument. We should give it some serious thought. Britain should be a leading force in the EU not a follower.
Andrew, UK

Britain is not even ready to debate the issue properly

Marcus, England
Whether Britain is ready for the euro is a question for the future - as yet Britain is not even ready to debate the issue properly. No one is talking about the real issues, such as whether loss of interest rate control will matter when other factors such as UK business competitiveness within Europe may be improved. Arguing loss of sovereignty seems ludicrous when a large proportion of our workforce are hired and fired at the whim of foreign companies. The real issue which dare not speak its name is political integration, which is an inevitable consequence. Until politicians and public alike debate the issue properly, a referendum is useless. I would not like to see a referendum before we have a proper debate.
Marcus, England

We may be ready for the euro but we certainly don't need it, our economy is doing just fine without it.
Baz, UK

Why would any sane country want to integrate and converge with the EU when EU growth is much lower than the UK's and EU unemployment is nearly twice the UK's level. What can economic convergence lead to except the UK losing its current advantages? Surely the disastrous experience of Labour policies in the sixties and seventies at least taught people in the UK that you should never take an economic decision on political or ideological grounds. You can be very sure of one thing. If after regaining a measure of economic success, the UK joins the euro and starts to complain about slowing growth and rising unemployment, there will be absolutely no sympathy for you over here.
Jon Livesey, USA

There can never be a right time for the British people to surrender what is left of our sovereignty

Peter Bradshaw, UK
There can never be a right time for the British people to surrender what is left of our sovereignty. Once in this politically inspired currency union, we can never leave. Tony Blair regards opponents of Britain's entry as disloyal. Then I'll be disloyal and proud to be so.
Peter Bradshaw, UK

I can't see Blair winning the euro referendum unless he tries to do it in some underhanded way, perhaps by setting the questions in a particular order. It seems there are more people against it then are actually for it. In fact, there are likely more people who don't really care than those who are actually for it. I really think Blair will want to get the referendum over in the next year so as not to mar the next election campaign.
Vinod Chhotu Patel, West Bromwich, UK

Come on Britain, it's high time you joined the euro. How can you be part of Europe if you're not willing to use its money?
Joanna, Spain

Joanna: That's a rhetorical question. I'm not bothered about being part of Europe at all anymore after two years of living in France, learning two languages, travelling all over the continent and being European - only to be repaid by a rise in far-right extremism and all the illegal immigrants France can't be bothered to send back. I travelled to Ireland on holiday around the May Day Bank Holiday and frankly, the euro is monopoly money that goes absolutely nowhere. They even print prices in euros and punts on receipts so everyone can see just how much more they are paying for goods since the changeover. No thanks. As for being able to see what you're paying where and going there for the cheapest goods, I've got the internet for that. No need to change my currency then. Have a nice time with the euro. You can keep it.
Kenneth Henry, UK

Joanna: We didn't choose to be part of Europe, we just have to put up with it.
Rachel, England

Bring it on Tony

Rob, UK, Europe
Bring it on Tony. Better in than out I say. Let's face it - as long as joining the euro is good for the country as a whole, then surely there is no argument? The company I work for is gagging for it - we have offices in every major European country and we deal with some major European players. Having to work with two currencies is costly and wasteful.
Rob, UK, Europe

Britain should never surrender its economic sovereignty to either Brussels or Frankfurt by accepting the euro. Britain is a viable economy in its own right. It is building daily on its economic lead within Europe by maintaining the independent pound. Remember the ERM? Well, nothing has changed. I strongly advise all ex-pats like myself to make sure they have their right to vote in place for the coming referendum. Mr Blair, you are wrong, you will fudge and you will lose.
Robert Head, USA

Robert Head USA, your analogy with the ERM is grossly misleading, as the ERM was based on attempting to keep exchange-rates within a sliding scale against one another via interest-rate movements and currency speculation, whereas the Euro involves the perfect guarantee of stable exchange rates within the Eurozone, i.e. abolishing the currencies involved so that there is no longer such an exchange rate. Comparisons with the ERM are ridiculous. If anything, the case for the Euro is strengthened by the events of 1992, since we now know that traditional methods of trying to keep currencies at a certain value against one another will never work.
Joseph O'Neill, Republic of Ireland

We need to wait for at least ten years to see how it fares

Chris L, UK
I've just been studying the euro for my economics course and there are some very disturbing facts involved. Countries such as Belgium and Italy were let in even though they couldn't match the criteria necessary to ensure that their economy could perform well. Also, there have been no major shocks to test the euro in the long run. September 11 had a negative impact on the entire global economy, not just the euro. This combined with the fact that the euro has barely been in existence for a short time makes it very difficult for the British population to ascertain the strength and long-term stability of the currency. If we join, we can never leave. I think we need to wait for at least ten years to see how it fares.
Chris L, UK

To Chris L, if you are studying economics you should also know that there is no such thing as never. I travel to Europe regularly, the euro is accepted there, and I find it convenient to have just one currency - it's just a shame I cannot spend my euros back in Britain.
Simon, England

To Simon, England: The risks of joining the euro in terms of losing the ability to manage our own economy are enormous. How could this ever be outweighed by the convenience of being able to spend the loose change left over from your foreign holiday?
Matt, UK

Unless the experience of the millions of Britons who will go to the eurozone this summer means a huge jump in support I cannot see Blair risking a referendum, when support is stuck at just over a third.
Rob Coppinger, UK

We are not ready to say whether the euro is good or not until the campaign starts and the people of the UK are informed about the advantages and the disadvantages, and can then make up their own mind from the information they are given.
Mark Mackey, England

As a young person who is pro-European I must agree with Mark that we need the campaign to start. Many of my peers know Britain is isolated and are concerned by this but feel that they can only be really sure on the Euro once the facts have been properly put to them.
Henri Murison, UK

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