Biography Chronology Home Search Speeches/Statements

1996 - Mr Major’s Comments on the Single Currency

Below are extracts of Mr Major’s comments on the single currency, made during an interview held on 8th December 1996.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he had to change his mind that Britain might in future join a single currency].

PRIME MINISTER:

What I’m asking everyone to accept - not just my Party - what I’m asking the whole country to accept is that the decisions that lie ahead on Europe - a single currency, but only a single currency - the decisions in the Inter-Governmental Conference are very important too - are decisions that are critical to our own national interest.

Whether we go into a single currency, or whether we stay out of it, it is going to affect the United Kingdom in a whole series of ways, very significant ways, that will impact upon our livelihood. Now, I believe, it is in the national interest for the British Government to be in there negotiating. And, I have to say to people: I do not know what I would say to people of this country; people in the City, the farmer, the businessman; if I said, at this stage: “I’m going to opt out of negotiations and I will not be in the negotiations to protect your interests”. If I did that, I think, you would ask me why are you Prime Minister? Why aren’t you there protecting British interests? Well, I intend to stay there.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if that was a question of keeping the opt-out and whether he should rule out entry].

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, let us take your premise. Certainly, a number of other countries are moving towards a single currency. Some of them for their own reasons are very enthusiastic about it. For some of them, it certainly makes undeniable sense. There’s a great head of steam behind it. All that is absolutely true. You say they’re looking at a flawed way of going in and by that I assume you mean that they will.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if criteria would be fudged].

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the criteria is a jargon. Fudging the economic circumstances that would make it prudent to go into a single currency. Well, let me take that proposition. Let us assume that is what they are doing. If they are fudging the criteria, then, there would be no question of the United Kingdom joining, no question at all. We established those criteria. We have no intention of going into a flawed economic and monetary union. That would be absurd.

But, let me take a second point then. If they are fudging it, should we therefore say: “now, we’ll have nothing to do with it?”. Well, I don’t believe that we should. And, I will tell you exactly why I don’t believe that we should. If they are fudging the criteria and they then set up a European monetary system that is weak, that will have a very damaging effect upon the United Kingdom. But giving ourselves a red card now and fleeing the field, when the game’s still to be played, seems to me to be a dereliction of responsibility.