CITING A MEETING at Chequers on Tuesday, the FT today says Gordon Brown and Tony Blair will rule out...
CITING A MEETING at Chequers on Tuesday, the FT today says Gordon Brown and Tony Blair will rule out a referendum on joining the single currency next year because only four out of the five economic tests set as the hurdle have been met.
Blair wants to keep the referendum option open through the remainder of this Parliamentary term because the next general election could be as far away as 2006.
Brown is said to want to put the issue to bed until the next Parliament following such an election, but in any case both men are agreed that the lack of monetary and fiscal flexibility in the eurozone and the damage that could be caused by a run on the pound through early entry are more than enough to postpone a referendum for now.
The chancellor is due to report on the five economic tests by the first week of June.
GORDON BROWN MAY have to focus on other matters in the meantime, The Daily Telegraph says, because he has already spent £1bn more than the already planned for deficit.
The Treasury target was for public sector net borrowing to hit £24bn in the year to March, but government figures released yesterday show that the debt hit £25.2bn.
Departments spent £2bn more than allocated last year, leaving the Treasury to pick up the tab and spend a record £8.1bn in March alone – the biggest sum since Norman Lamont was in office in 1994.
The Telegraph quotes economists as saying the ballooning deficit will quickly become a big problem if the global growth forecast by the Treasury does not appear on time.
PICKING UP ON that theme is The Scotsman, which quotes a new World Trade Organisation report that forecasts flat growth in world trade this year because of the effects of war in Iraq, SARS in Asia, and continued sluggishness in the American and major European economies.
Even a relatively slack 3% growth in global trade volume depends on a steep increase in consumers spending from April on, something the report describes as having significant "downside risks".
Chief among these risks is that the US and UK's determination to go to war against Iraq despite not having approval from multilateral bodies such as the UN could threaten faith in other multilateral bodies such as the WTO, which in turn could raise barriers to trade and harm global economic growth.
AVIVA IS SET to cut costs in a dramatic fashion, The Times reports, after the company released figures showing its first quarter UK sales of bond and savings products slumped 40% compared to the same period last year.
Sales of UK personal pensions are down 26%, and chief executive Richard Harvey is promising to "cut costs and raise revenues".
Overall revenues in the quarter were up slightly, but only because of strong sales in Continental markets, the paper adds.
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