Single Currency

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 1:44 pm on 10th November 1999.

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Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Conservative, New Forest East 1:44 pm, 10th November 1999

What factors other than economic ones will determine whether Britain joins the single European currency.

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair Prime Minister

A decision will be taken on the basis of what is in Britain's best national interests.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Conservative, New Forest East

Why does not the Prime Minister break the habit of a lifetime and answer a question that has been put to him? His office has known for almost a fortnight that this was a question about the political factors that should be counted in deciding whether Britain should join the single currency. Is it not a fact that the President of the European Commission has stated that the European Commission should be described in future as the European Government, and that the president of the European central bank has stated that the purpose of European monetary union is, and always has been, to be a stepping stone on the way to a united Europe? Does the Prime Minister agree with those aims? Before he denounces us as minority—[Interruption.]

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. I will have some order in the House.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Conservative, New Forest East

Before the Prime Minister denounces us, as he always does, as minority extremists, will he explain why 64 per cent. of the British people believe that we should keep the pound and reject the single European currency?

Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair Prime Minister

I thought that I was coming in on the hon. Gentleman's Conservative party reselection speech.

The national interest of course includes the economic conditions that we have set out, but, unlike the Conservative party, we believe that the national economic interest should be the determining factor in whether Britain joins the single currency—whether it is good for British jobs, industry and investment. But the hon. Gentleman's position is that we should never join the single currency—not in any circumstances. Indeed, he is a member of a Conservative party fringe group with 13 Conservative spokesmen and spokeswomen who believe that, if they cannot renegotiate the terms of entry to the Common Market, they should withdraw from the European Community. That is the hon. Gentleman's policy, it is not ours, so we just disagree. What is absurd is for the leader of the Conservative party to say that he is fighting a great campaign to save the pound, but only for five years. That is not the hon. Gentleman's policy. Our policy is the sensible one—leave the option open and determine it on the British national economic interest.