CURRENT EVENTS OF BRITAIN
Under the leadership of charismatic Tony Blair, the Labour Party reduced ties with unions, refashioned itself into the alternative for discontented voters, and finally began to rise in popularity. In 1999, however, Blair earned the title of little Clinton for his blind conformance to American foreign policy. After the September 11th attacks of 2002, Britain again gave its unilateral support to the US. Blair’s detractors believe that Britain’s refusal to adopt the euro is another sign that his sympathies with the US are greater than those with Europe. Throughout 2002, the British government prepared for the perhaps-inevitable currency switch-over, conducting five tests to see if Britain and the euro are compatible. The issue could go before the voters in a referendum in 2003.
Blair’s Labour government has also initiated domestic devolution in Scotland and Wales. The Scots voted in a 1997 referendum to have their own Parliament, which opened in 1999, and the Welsh opened their National Assembly in
1999. Progress has been more halting in the latest attempts at Northern Irish autonomy; the British government suspended Belfast’s Stormont Assembly in
2000, hoping to instigate the decommissioning of arms by the IRA and their Unionist counterparts. A lack of progress satisfactory to either side led to a year of violence throughout 2001 and into 2002. The Good Friday Agreement leads a precarious existence between cease-fires, election outcomes, and disarmament promises.