Charles Kennedy: Euro switch a generation away

THERE is no prospect of Britain joining the European single currency for a generation at least, former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy told party activists today.

Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP Charles Kennedy. Picture: Robert Perry

Mr Kennedy, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, was one of the biggest cheerleaders for euro entry during his time as leader, and his comment is an indication of how far the most pro-European of the main parties has drifted away from its former enthusiasm for the single currency.

The Lib Dem manifesto for the 2010 general election said it remained in Britain’s interests to join the euro “when the economic conditions are right”. Mr Kennedy’s comments indicated that he does not expect that to be the case for many years to come.

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Mr Kennedy, who is president of the European Movement, was addressing a meeting of the organisation on the fringe of the Lib Dems’ autumn conference in Glasgow.

Asked if he still supported UK entry to the euro, he replied: “I don’t honestly see it happening over the course of the next generation. As I’m now just coming up to 54, that pretty much rules it out for me in terms of relevance to my political career.

“I think we could have won a referendum in Tony Blair’s second year in office on the principle of a single currency when the circumstances were right, subject to an affirmative vote in Parliament.

“That’s what he marched everybody up to the top of the hill about... and then everybody got marched back down the hill again.

“Waiting for Godot was a two-act play in which nothing happened twice. Blair’s European policy was a two-act play in which nothing happened twice, and that’s why I’m very critical of him on that issue.”

Mr Kennedy added: “I really don’t see it happening, certainly not in the foreseeable future or in my possible, potential - God and the electorate willing - career-span in politics, I really don’t.”