The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997


Mr Major’s Letter to the Daily Telegraph – 15 September 2003

The text of Mr Major’s letter to the Daily Telegraph on the subject of the Single Currency, published in September 2003.



The Swedish rejection of the Euro re-emphasises the unlikelihood of our Government holding an early Referendum on the same subject. They will not do so for they know they will lose.

In 1991, at Maastricht, I obtained an opt-out from the Euro. Later, I persuaded Cabinet to offer a Referendum prior to membership – a commitment the Blair Government had no choice but to inherit. I am therefore – at least in part – responsible for Sterling not yet having been abolished and the Euro adopted. It has always been my view that circumstances might arise in which it would be in our interests to join, but I have yet to see any that are imminent.

The belief of the euro-sceptics that I offered a Referendum to appease them is both fatuous and wrong (as official documents will reveal in time). I did so because entry to the Euro would have a personal impact on every citizen and was therefore an issue upon which I felt they should have the opportunity to express an opinion.

The same principle applies to the proposed European Constitution. The Government are resisting a Referendum on the specious grounds that Margaret Thatcher did not have one on the Single European Act and nor did I on the Maastricht Treaty. This line of defence does not stand up to examination.

In neither instance was such a clear and fundamental point at issue. Moreover, at Maastricht, I opted out of the two greatest concerns – the single currency and the Social Chapter. I also agreed a negotiating position with Parliament and held to it in every particular. The present Government are not in this position with the proposed European Constitution.

Another difference is relevant too: in the 1980s and 1990s, referenda were not commonplace, hence my difficulty in getting Cabinet to agree to one since many colleagues did not like the wider constitutional implications. Labour, however, have used referenda frequently.

The Government should stop hiding behind a half-truth and offer a public poll on the European Constitution without further delay.

Yours faithfully,