Blair and Brown discuss their opinions on entering the eurozone
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‘Blair & Brown: The New Labour Revolution’ charts the meteoric rise and legacy left by New Labour under the stewardship of Mr Blair and Gordon Brown in the Nineties and Noughties. The series’ second episode sees a landslide 1997 election victory make Mr Blair the first Labour Prime Minister in nearly two decades. Mr Blair’s popularity soared after he made significant inroads in securing peace in Northern Ireland, and was in tune with the public’s grief after the death of Princess Diana.
However the documentary also shows cracks and political rivalries beginning to form within the party between the Prime Minister, and his close friend and Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr Brown.
One of the sources of the pair’s tension was whether the UK should join the European single currency, with Mr Blair deeply in favour and Mr Brown resolutely opposed.
In the BBC series, Mr Blair stood by his belief the UK should have joined the euro and stressed he believed it was the country’s “destiny”.
Mr Blair said: “With the euro, I have no doubt at all that was Britain’s clear destiny.
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“All round the world regions were coming together, so for me Britain being at the heart of Europe was essential and the euro fitted into that.”
His comments come even with full knowledge of the eurozone crisis that took hold back in 2009.
The crisis saw a stop of foreign capital into countries with substantial deficits, dependent on foreign lending, and was worsened by the inability of the states to resort to devaluation.
Many critics argued that this highlighted the difficulty of having a single currency without fiscal union between the countries that use it.
In 1997 Mr Blair declared “five economic tests” must be passed before the Government could recommend the UK joining the euro and promised to hold a referendum on membership if those five tests were met.
The tests analysed whether joining the euro would promote higher growth, stability and a lasting increase in jobs to the UK economy.
The Treasury assessed the five economic tests in October 1997 and concluded that the UK economy was not sufficiently converged with that of the rest of the EU.
In the documentary Mr Brown said: “Look we had a difficulty over the euro and that was a policy difference.
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“I agreed with Tony ‒ there were huge political advantages for Britain actually being part of the euro.
“But there were also economic drawbacks.
“Our economic cycle was different from that of Europe, the financial services industry was quite unique.
“My fear was we would have a recession as soon as we went into the European euro arrangement.”
Press stories soon emerged alluding to differences between Number 10 and the Treasury, which caused further tension between Mr Brown and Mr Blair and their respective allies, Charlie Whelan and Peter Mandelson.
When inheriting the role of Prime Minister from Mr Blair in 2007, Mr Brown ruled out membership of the euro and said that the decision not to join initially had been correct for Britain and for Europe.
Mr Blair, who is staunchly pro-EU, was fiercely critical of the UK’s decision to leave the EU in 2016.
In 2019, having spent three years advocating for a reversal of Brexit, Mr Blair branded the UK’s European exit as “tragic”.
In an interview with WETA, Mr Blair said: “It’s tragic.
“We should never have agreed a Brexit General Election by the way ‒ it’s crazy to mix the two issues up.
“We should have had a decision by the British people on Brexit, self-standing as a decision, but we didn’t.
“One of the many mistakes the Labour party made was to agree a Brexit General Election, it’s now decided, the Government has a majority to do Brexit at the end of January.”
He added: “It’s then going to be a very difficult negotiation but it’s now important that we accept it’s going to happen and try and make it work as best we can.”
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