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The United Kingdom will not participate in a single currency in 1996 or in 1997. The United Kingdom would only ever take part in a single currency if to do so would be in the national interest. Under the UK protocol to the treaty on European union, any decision to seek to join a single currency would be a matter for the UK Government and Parliament. The Government see no reason for any of the articles or associated protocols relating to economic and monetary union to be on the agenda for the 1996 intergovernmental conference. Neither is it on the agenda of the reflections group. The Government do not therefore intend to provide any submission on the issue to the reflections group.
I thank my hon. Friend for that constructive and helpful reply. I take it that when he attends the reflections group he will be aware that other participants will arrive with the views of their countries and national Parliaments and Executives clearly in mind. They may want to do things that my hon. Friend might oppose. May I have my hon. Friend's assurance that what he has just said will give him the ground for opposing?
In one sense, we shall be observing a difference of view between other countries. Some will want to relax the convergence criteria, some will want to tighten them. For that reason, I do not foresee a single currency being a major issue in the reflections group or the intergovernmental conference.
One benefit of the British Government's position is that we are part of that process. Our policy input is extraordinarily important, and we are taken extremely seriously in those arguments. We have as much influence as anyone could wish.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the quickest way to create a federal Europe would be to enter a single currency, so it is hardly surprising that the Government are so cautious? Public support for the Government's position is also hardly surprising. When will the Opposition wake up to that fact?