“Not Yet’ to Euro
Britain’s recent “not yet” decision on a referendum to replace its sovereign currency, the pound, with the European Union federal currency, the euro, has raised hackles on the Continent.
Gordon Brown, Britain’s chancellor of the Exchequer, sent confusing signals to the British electorate by combining his present rejection of the euro with an undertaking to campaign for its adoption. Frustrated at this fork-tongued approach, the German daily Handelsblatt’s retort was to declare Britain as an increasingly unreliable partner in Europe. Handelsblatt raised the question, “How can one work closely with an EU partner which cannot decide on such a decisive issue?” (June 10).
The article went on to point out the danger of such equivocation, not just to the British electorate but also to Britain’s continuing acceptance as a member of the EU. “… Blair must fear for his influence in Europe. No other politician knows better than he how important symbols are in politics. The euro stands for the whole European question …” (ibid.).
London must face the fact that it will soon be called to account for its seemingly diffident approach on key EU questions involving not only the adoption of the euro, but also other vital aspects of the newly drafted and still evolving European constitution.
The British are increasingly concerned about the loss of national sovereignty which acceptance of this constitution will entail. But, of all issues that define a nation’s sovereignty, it is free possession and control of its national currency—its own means of exchange—which is of major symbolic significance.
Unlike the predominantly Catholic electorates in Europe, which the Vatican is influencing heavily when it comes to the vote on key issues, the British are, traditionally, freer and more independent thinkers. The euro may yet prove to be the wedge that divides Britain from continuing EU membership.