UK - EUROZONE

Majority of Brits still against joining euro

Despite the dramatic fall in the pound, a large majority of Brits are still against joining the euro, as is Downing Street, which has refuted comments by European Commission president José Manuel Barroso that London was considering the idea.

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AFP - A clear majority of Britons remain opposed to abandoning the pound in favour of the euro a decade after the single European currency was introduced, according to a poll published on Thursday.

Some 71 percent of respondents were against joining the euro, with only 23 percent in favour, the ICM survey for BBC Radio found.

People were unswayed by the recent rockiness of the pound, which has plummeted to almost parity with the euro after the Bank of England slashed interest rates to fend off recession.

The poll found that 69 percent of people felt such fluctuations made no difference to whether Britain should join the single currency and 14 percent said it actually made them less inclined.

Only 15 percent said the pound's fall made them keener on ditching sterling for the euro.

The survey was published as the main opposition Conservatives -- who are leading the governing Labour party in opinion polls -- said they would never take Britain into the euro.

The party's foreign affairs specialist, William Hague, told Thursday's Daily Mail newspaper the idea of abandoning the pound after it had lost value was "a pretty stupid one -- rather like thinking that if you have let your house run down in value until it is the same as a smaller one next door, it is a good time to swap.

He said: "We all know that in that situation you have to learn to look after your house better.

"A Conservative government under (party leader) David Cameron would have no ministers telling Brussels we would be better off without the pound and no goal of joining the euro one day. We would never join the euro."

Business Secretary Peter Mandelson said the government maintained the long-term policy objective of taking Britain into the euro, although he insisted: "It's not for now."

The euro did sign up one new member on Thursday, with Slovakia becoming the 16th European Union state to adopt the currency.

In several other countries, sentiment in favour of the euro, seen as a safer haven, has risen quite sharply as a result of the global financial crisis which has caused havoc with growth and employment, and threatens to get even worse early this year.

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