UK closer to joining euro, EU commission president says

Some British politicians considering signing up to single currency in bid to beat effects of global economic crisis, according to José Manuel Barroso

Photograph: EPA

The UK is “closer” to joining the euro than ever before, according to the president of the European commission.

José Manuel Barroso said some British politicians were considering signing up to the single currency in a bid to beat the effects of the global economic crisis.

He told French radio station RTL: “We are now closer than ever before.

“I’m not going to break the confidentiality of certain conversations, but some British politicians have already told me, ‘If we had the euro, we would have been better off.'”

But Barroso admitted that the majority of people in the UK were still opposed to the idea of joining the single currency.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “We have no comment on this. Our position on the euro is the same – it has not changed.”

William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, said it was “extraordinary” that the government was “whispering to the EU commission about joining the euro behind the British people’s backs”.

“Keeping the pound is vital for Britain’s economic future,” he said. “We need interest rates that are right for Britain, not the rest of Europe. There are no circumstances in which the next Conservative government will propose joining the euro.

“If Labour ministers still want to get Britain into the euro they should come out and say so. We will be putting questions to the government to find out what conversations have been going on.”

Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence party, said: “The ruling elite would love to bounce us into the euro and will grasp at any straw to do so, for it’s a step on the way to their dream and our nightmare, a federal superstate.

“We’re told that some British politicians have said, ‘If we had the euro, we would have been better off.’ Whoever these people are we need to hunt them down and explain some simple economics to them. Membership of the euro would have meant lower interest rates in the boom, making the bubble even larger. And it would mean higher interest rates now in the bust, making the recession even deeper. The pound has fallen against both the dollar and the euro thus providing us with that fiscal boost that everyone says is so necessary, a boost which we couldn’t have had if we were in the euro.”

He said that if Barroso wanted to consult the people who mattered in Britain he should call for a referendum on the euro and the Lisbon treaty “so that the people of Britain can tell him where to go”.

Monday December 1 2008 10.59 GMT

Source: The Guardian

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