The British government has outlined a course of action aimed at eventually adopting the European single currency, the euro. As Prime Minister Tony Blair puts it, Britain cannot afford to cut itself adrift from Europe by remaining outside the single currency. But the British leader maintains that, at the moment, conditions are not right to shed the pound-sterling currency in favor of the euro.
Four of the five economic tests that the government has set out have not been met, but Mr. Blair's administration insists that clear progress has been noted and says a review of the situation is expected in a year.
Speaking at a news conference, the British prime minister acknowledged that the decision to wait was partly political, as has been pointed out by his critics. But he also said economic considerations carry with them important weight as well.
"Of course there are political considerations," said Mr. Blair. "There are constitutional considerations. But in the end, the economics has got to be right. It is an economic union. You cannot say it does not matter."
Closer monitoring of what is being described as, the narrowing convergency gap from sterling to the euro, is promised during the next 12 months.
But public opinion polls continue to show that a sizable majority of British voters are opposed to giving up the pound. Mr. Blair says the coming year also will be a time in which his government will try to persuade average Britons that joining the common currency will make the most sense.
"The benefits are now clearly spelled out. The path is clear," he said. "This is something we want to do. We have got a process in place to remove the obstacles. But in the end, you cannot judge this on anything other than the national economic interest. And that is the position that I think, in the end, the country understands, and it is the only basis, incidentally, in my view that you will ever persuade the country to be part of the euro."
The British government has promised a referendum on joining the single currency, but it is unclear when that might take place. Mr. Blair said that could happen before or after the next election, which must take place within three years.