Does Labour support joining the euro?

Gordon Brown

The Vote Match website – which you can visit here – reveals some interesting facts about what parties think. One of the most interesting is Labour policy on the euro.

The statement that was put was “The UK should join the European single currency (Euro)”, with which Labour was understood to agree on the basis of the following quote in its policy document: “In principle we are in favour of membership of the single currency.”

The Labour party itself requested that it should be recorded instead as being “open minded” on the issue.

In one sense, a party’s view of the euro is irrelevant to the European elections. It is not up to the European Parliament to decide whether Britain can join the euro: that is a matter for the British government (to adopt suitable policies designed to steer the British economy in the right direction), the British parliament (which would have to support those policies and vote in favour of actually joining), the British people (who would have to vote Yes in a referendum), and the national governments of the other member states (with whom Britain would have to agree a suitable exchange rate around which exchange rate stability could be demonstrated). There might be a small role for the EP in its scrutiny of the actions of the European Central Bank and the European Commission, to the extent that those actions might help or hinder future British membership of the euro, but that is only at the margins. It might seem paradoxical, but decisions about Europe are not taken in European elections but in national elections.

In another sense, though, a party’s view of the euro is extremely important. What a party says about the euro is indicative of its vision of Europe, both in its substance and its clarity.

What Labour says about the euro is that certain economic conditions would have to be met – that’s why the policy document states support for euro membership “in principle” – but those economic conditions will not be met of their own accord. They will be met if membership of the euro is set as a deliberate goal, and economic policies are devised to meet it. Right now, the Labour government’s economic policy has other goals, and membership of the euro is not remotely under consideration.

If the debate about the euro is a constitutional one, then Labour is on the side of the angels: they agree that it is possible. But if the debate about the euro is a political one – whether the actions of one party rather than another will make euro membership more likely – then one’s view of Labour has to be rather more open-minded.

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