September 16, 2003


Swedish 'no' vote on euro reverberates in Britain: Polls show 60 percent of Britons favor keeping the pound. (Mark Rice-Oxley, 9/17/03, CS Monitor)

"The lack of growth in France and Germany is the biggest barrier to people being enthusiastic about joining the euro," says one pro-euro government source here, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "And as long as Britain has good growth with full employment, and the other big countries in Europe are in the doldrums, then we won't be voting 'yes' either."

The euro debate is one of the most divisive in Britain, cutting across cabinet and government, political parties and businesses, boardrooms, classrooms, and living rooms. Polls consistently show about 60 percent who do not want to ditch the pound, with barely 30 percent in favor.

In some ways, the euro issue is a microcosm of the love-hate relationship between Britain and Europe. One school of thought, embodied by trenchant euroskeptic and former prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, sees Europe as essentially alien to the Anglo-Saxon way of life - statist, indolent, bureaucratic, and polyglot.

The counterview embraces the history and vision of the "European project," which has assured unprecedented peace and prosperity across the western half of the continent for almost 60 years.

Nowhere is the euro rift more obvious than at the top end of the cabinet, where Prime Minister Tony Blair is a starry-eyed enthusiast while his finance chief Gordon Brown is far more doubtful.

Mr. Brown held sway in June when the government said it was too soon to hold a vote on joining the euro because Britain's economy was not yet convergent with mainland Europe in key areas like inflation, interest rates, growth, and business cycles.

Another assessment is scheduled for early next year, but few now expect a vote on the matter in the next five years.

"We are nowhere near to going to the polls in the UK now," says Adrian Hughes, a currency expert at international banking giant HSBC. "Until the [economy] is reasonably convergent with Europe's, we won't actually see a vote."

That's the ticket...wait until the French and German economies are healthy...

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 16, 2003 7:15 PM

Does this mean they might also vote on the metric system in five years? Egads!

Posted by: genecis at September 16, 2003 7:51 PM

genecis, they'll only allow a vote on the metric system after all the English system holdouts are in jail.

Posted by: pj at September 16, 2003 8:50 PM

I spoke to a very disappointed Swedish diplomat today. She talked on and on about how many things "the ordinary people" didn't understand.

Terrible problem, democracy.

Posted by: Peter B at September 16, 2003 9:08 PM

It is going down and it will go down HARD!

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 16, 2003 9:16 PM

I'm glad to see that the Brits apparently haven't completely taken leave of their sense. Yet.

Posted by: Paul Cella at September 17, 2003 8:57 AM

"Though the proud galleon sails above
And the waters churn below it.
The tide is master of the sail,
And the churning waters know it."

Sandor Petofi (translated by George Jonas)

Posted by: Peter B at September 17, 2003 9:16 AM