TERRY DIGNAN: The Eurovision.....Con-Tests
- as some describe them.
DIGNAN: Move over Terry Wogan.
It's time to get serious. A momentous decision may soon be upon us. And
it will matter a tad more than who won last night's extravaganza in Estonia.
When Eurovision last came
to Britain four years ago, Labour had ruled out a referendum on the single
currency until five economic tests had been met. By the time of next year's
contest we're promised we'll know if we're ready to join. While it's hard
to read the Chancellor's mind, Tony Blair appears impatient for an early
JOHN MCFALL MP; There is a window of opportunity
for this referendum to take place, within this Parliament and next year
it's recognised that, that is that time when it should take place.
JANE GRIFFITHS: There is a very strong
ground swell of opinion among Labour MPs that the tests have been met and
that it's time to get moving.
DIGNAN; The Eurovision Song Contest.
There are few events which attract more sneers from the critics. Just listen
to some of the lyrics they say. They can mean anything you want them to
mean. A bit like Gordon Brown's five economic tests, it's argued. But just
because there'll be doubts over what the tests really mean that may be
no bad thing from Mr Brown's point of view. Because, according to the cynics,
it will ensure the assessment of the tests will produce exactly the result
the Government wants.
When the call comes there's
no escaping the big moment. But, say the critics, that's what Labour did
five years ago over holding a Euro referendum. It used the economic tests
as an excuse, it's claimed, for delaying an appointment with the voters.
The public will be asked
to vote on joining the Euro only when the tests are met. There must be
sustainable convergence between the United Kingdom and the economies of
those European countries which now use the single currency. Sufficient
flexibility within the UK economy to cope with economic change is also
required. The effect of joining on investment is test number three. Number
four - the impact on our Financial Services Industry and number five,
whether joining the Euro is good for employment. Yet the validity of the
tests is doubted even by those leading economists who believe they've already
MARTIN WHEALE: Some of the tests, or one
in particular is very odd. The government says that it's concerned about
the Financial Services Industry, the implication being that Britain would
stay out if it was bad for the Financial Services Industry, even if it
was extremely good for everyone else. And I don't understand the priority
it gives to the Financial Services Industry, I don't understand why one
group should have a veto over the national interest.
ACTUALITY - Singing So near - so near. So far
- so far.
DIGNAN: So near - so near.
So far - so far, sang the UK contenders in 1998. Which nicely describes
the difference between economists who believe we're almost ready for the
Euro and those who say we're not. The Treasury's assessment of the tests
- to be completed by June next year - won't end the arguments, according
to the former civil servant responsible for refining the tests' wording.
SIR ALAN BUDD: They're about directions,
they're about how close you are to other economies, so there is a wide
area of judgement, in which I think perfectly reasonable people could say
yes, I'm convinced by the evidence, it's okay to join, and others, seeing
the same answers, will say, well I'm not sure, I don't want to join just
yet, and I think within the, any reasonable future, the outcome is going
to lie in that range of uncertainty.
DIGNAN; Gordon Brown is far too
serious a politician to subject his economic tests to this sort of treatment.
But why not? Finding a Eurovision winner is hardly a scientific exercise
and nor, some argue, is resolving the single currency dilemma. Many regard
it as a political question even though the Chancellor maintains the assessment
of his tests overrides all other considerations.
GRIFFITHS: Well I would hesitate
to compare Gordon Brown with Mandy Rice Davies, but they would say that
wouldn't they. That's what treasuries do and that's what Chancellor's do,
is to say, no, we've got to look carefully and prudently at the economy
and of course that's right that the Treasury should do that. But the Treasury
is not the whole story, the political reality is the other half of the
BUDD: We can't have an important
decision, like whether we join the single currency, being taken by civil
servants, that would be wholly inappropriate. It has to be taken first
of all by politicians, and then by the people, and since the five tests
are so important in this process, there must be this ministerial, this
political judgement involved. So the Treasury officials will do an excellent
piece of work, quite wonderful, setting out all the relevant information,
asking all the right questions, providing all the tables, providing all
the graphs, they'll give all the information. But the final conclusion
of whether these tests are passed, will be made by the Chancellor of the
Exchequer, together with the Prime Minister.
DIGNAN; Like the contenders in
last night's Eurovision contest, supporters of Britain joining the Euro
face an anxious wait. But maybe they shouldn't hold their breath. Because
if Mr Blair thinks he can win a referendum, then, it's claimed, the result
of the assessment will be a foregone conclusion. But if he thinks he is
going to lose, then, surprise, surprise, we'll be told we're not yet ready
for the Euro.
BUDD: I may be being too cynical
about this, but I assume that the Prime Minister and Mr Brown do not want
to embark on a referendum, unless they think they can win it. If the five
tests are passed, we know they have to hold the referendum, therefore you
can see that the logic may work backwards from the referendum to the five
tests. If they think they can pass the referendum and want to do so, then
they are more likely to find that the five tests have been passed. If they'd
rather postpone the referendum, then I think they're more likely to find
that we're nearly there but not quite, and we ought to wait a little longer.
DIGNAN: Not everyone will agree
that last night in Estonia the judges got it right. Mr Brown though will
want to convince his audience, the electorate, that the assessment of his
economic tests is spot on. So he's promising that all five will have to
be met clearly and unambiguously before Britain joins the Euro. But can
anyone be so certain about a decision which many regard is as much political
LORD HASKINS; Yes, I mean the word unambiguous
is a problematical word. What economist was ever unambiguous, there's always
going to be one economist to challenge the view of another economist. So
in that sense I think looking for a one hundred per cent answer is going
to be very difficult.
MCFALL; Well I can sympathise and
understand the Chancellor in trying to get his view across that he is very,
very firm that these tests must be met but I also concur with economist
you know, put two economists in a room and you get two opinions or maybe
three opinions. The Economist magazine itself last year did a survey of
academic economists regarding Euro entry and would it be good or bad for
the country and I think it was split fifty-fifty down the middle. So the
phrase clear and unambiguous I think does not apply to economics.
ACTUALITY: Singing "We've both made the same mistakes".
DIGNAN; In Estonia last night Jessica
Garlick sang for her country. Some supporters of Euro entry believe it
would be a mistake for Tony Blair to allow Gordon Brown to dissuade him
from holding a referendum on the single currency. They fear the Chancellor
has been allowed to set too tough an obstacle to joining Euroland.
ACTUALITY; "Thank you."
DIGNAN; But others say it's a ploy
to enthuse wavering voters.
FRANK FIELD; The person who'd increasingly
been presented as Mr bad in the fight with the Prime Minister, the sceptic,
would announce this Pauline conversion and say actually, though I've always
held these views, I think now the tests have been passed.
LORD HASKINS: I think that if Gordon Brown
does get up one day and says we've passed the tests, that sure as hell
is going to impress a lot of people who think that Gordon Brown is rather
a good Chancellor, which I think would be extremely helpful, to the argument.
DIGNAN; It's twenty one years since
Bucks Fizz won for Britain with making your mind up. Supporters of the
single currency hope they won't have to wait that long before the Government
decides to hold a referendum on the Euro. It's all a question of meeting
its economic tests. Or so we're told. Because many suspect the test which
really matters is the missing one - can the Government win the referendum?