Tories launch anti-euro attack

The Conservatives are attempting to pre-empt any Labour argument for the Euro with an attack on the European Central Bank in parliament.

Reports of increased sympathy for Euro-membership among senior government figures have become more frequent as the economic crisis continues, but Labour figures deny having changed their opinion on the matter.

Speaking in a Commons debate on European affairs yesterday, shadow foreign secretary William Hague demanded to know which, if any, government ministers had discussed the subject with European Commission president José Manuel Barroso.

Mr Barroso caused a minor political storm this month when he admitted talking to British officials about joining the currency.

“It would be helpful if the foreign secretary or the minister for Europe could, in the spirit of open government, clear up some questions on this issue,” Mr Hague said. “I’m sure they have nothing to hide.

“So can they tell us which minister last discussed Britain’s membership of the euro with the president of the commission? When did the foreign secretary last discuss the issue with him? No doubt the government will have conducted an investigation into who has spoken to the president of the commission about this matter.”

Mr Hague argued that Eurozone membership would have made Britain economic woes more severe.

“Yet none of this has stopped Lord Mandelson, who seems to be taking over even wider swathes of the government’s foreign and economic policies from reminding the nation that the government is committed to Euro membership in the future,” he said.

“Nor has it stopped some of the ‘people who matter’ in the British government telling the president of the European Commission that Britain is warming to the Euro.”

Lord Mandelson, business secretary, is pro-European, but has categorically denied telling Mr Barroso the UK was ready to join the Euro.

Britain’s budget deficit is now nearly so high the country would actually be disqualified from Euro membership, according to the Maastricht criteria, according to the Conservatives.

“Our national debt is heading for the level which, if any of the massive off-balance sheet liabilities of the government are included, takes us well outside the Euro’s entry criteria,” Mr Hague said.