Forget the referendum Tony, just get on with it

Time has run out for the UK and the euro. There is no more time for the long-promised ‘national debate’; no more time for the government to rely on its five economic tests; no more time for vacillation.

Now that the notes and coins have finally arrived, debates about entry are increasingly being revealed for what they were all along – a side-show. It seems obvious that this project was never going to be allowed to fail.

Doubters expected the switchover would cause chaos, a fear which depressed the value of the currency during the last month.

But apart from a few glitches in Austria, when the cash machine network went down for a couple of hours, the euro recovered and made an early gain against the pound. This is vitally important for UK exporters who struggled with a strong pound and a weak euro during 2001.

Meanwhile some major inward investors, such as Nissan, lost patience with the government’s indecision and announced they would buy more components from the eurozone.

UK industry remains split, but the continued debate is starting to debilitate business. The lack of certainty in the market is damaging confidence and creating a poor environment for investment.

So why, if in practical terms the currency is a success and many expect it to rise in value over the coming year, can we not have a decision now?

Despite the economic tests, which are important, the government has saddled itself with the promise of a referendum.

Labour will not allow itself to lose a referendum on the euro – a hugely difficult task. In the only other euro-referendum, in Denmark, the opinion polls suggested that a yes vote was most likely. But some clever campaigning by the antis at the last moment secured a ‘no’ with a majority of about 5%.

This is why a referendum, and a decision, is still a long way off in this country.While Mr Blair is playing the statesman on the world stage, UK industry is woefully in need of some leadership.

So show some by cancelling the referendum and make a decision.