The cost of not being informed.

This is the fourth time in two years that Accountancy Age has polled FDs about their views towards the euro. And their views are clear: once again, hostility towards the single currency is hardening.

In July 1999, our first survey on this most vexed of questions, 41% of more than 200 FDs polled said the UK should join the single currency in the lifetime of the next parliament.

Six months later, in the week of the euro’s launch in January 2000, that plunged alongside market sentiment towards the fledgling currency; just 35% of the FDs we asked backed membership of the currency in the next parliament.

Last July saw something of a euro renaissance. Over 51% of FDs said the UK should join, the first time our polls had revealed majority support.

But by this week, FDs had appeared to come full circle. If last summer’s vote had seemed to mark a turning point in the negative attitude towards the euro, by this week majority support had evaporated.

Just 44% of almost 300 FDs questioned by Accountancy Age and Reed Accountancy Personnel over the last seven days said they want to join the currency in the next parliament. The waning support revealed this week is particularly troubling for the government since it comes as the euro has stabilised on the foreign exchange markets and the prospects for euroland economies look relatively rosy.

With a general election almost certainly taking place in May, the issue is set to dominate the news pages over the coming months.

And, as we argue in a leader in this week’s Accountancy Age, much of the responsibility for raising the level of debate from a political slanging match to a considered argument based largely on financial grounds rests on the shoulders of finance directors and other accountants.

But with this group – probably the most informed group, after all – apparently split down the middle, what are the chances?

As if to demonstrate the division, one FD said this week: ‘Although I am pro-Europe I am not sure it makes financial sense to be in with the euro.’

Another, who also asked to remain anonymous, was equally forthright, only to interpret the debate in an entirely new light. ‘No, no, no,’ James Carver, financial director of St. John’s Ambulance told us, in a similar vein to many others. ‘Who would hand over their bank account to be joined with 12 others, some of whom have overdrafts with that bank account being run by somebody living in Frankfurt who would control it by means of taking your cheque book and credit card?

‘This is what Britain is being asked to do by the EU. Once they control your money they control you.’

Unequivocal. But perhaps most troubling of all was the FD who was asked to comment and said: ‘Not enough knowledge’.

So, with most FDs spilt and the balance largely in the dark, it seems, what price a more informed debate now?

– For euro web links see page Web Reviews on page 12.

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