Alliance Leader David Ford has said that setting a date for the euro referendum should now be a priority for the Chancellor. Mr Ford was speaking following remarks by the Europe minister, Peter Hain, in a combatively pro-euro interview with a French newspaper.
Mr Hain said Chancellor Gordon Brown’s assessment of the government’s tests for entry could happen this autumn – months before the June 2003 deadline.
Mr Ford said: “The euro is rapidly becoming a defacto second currency in large parts of Northern Ireland, thanks to our border with the eurozone. So I am glad Mr Hain is spelling out the reality that if the UK is to make a decision one way or the other on the euro before the next election, a referendum must be held by the middle of next year.”
“I believe that the chancellor must now make a timetable for a referendum a priority. Here in Northern Ireland, the issue is particularly important, not just because of our euro frontier, but also because the single currency is vital for tourist facilities, farmers and manufacturers.”
“This is not steamrollering; it is a simple fact that Gordon Brown should admit. We have seen how the changeover to the euro in the other EU member states has proceeded very smoothly – it is now time to let the people of Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK make their decision.”