Leader – Pride and prejudice blocks euro

The prime minister’s decision to lead the cross-party Britain in Europe campaign has re-ignited the euro debate, despite his best efforts to leave the single currency out of it.

Tony Blair insists his involvement is about Britain playing its full part in Europe and not an endorsement of the euro. But try as he may, the euro issue will not go away.

Last week, our Big Question survey asked over 200 finance directors what they thought. Two fifths said Britain should not join the euro in the lifetime of the next parliament. Even if we did sign up to the single currency, a survey by consultancy Cap Gemini this week found that most businesses had seriously underestimated the time it would take to switch their systems over to the euro. A worrying 26% had not even raised the issue at board level.

The euro debate in Britain has been marked by ignorance and prejudice.

But that is no reason for business to hide its collective head in the sand. The euro is the currency of the biggest market in the world after the US, and its influence will grow.

Indeed the weak euro, derided by sceptics, is actually giving our euro-zone competitors a big export advantage, to say nothing of 3% base rates in Euroland. The euro debate needs to be more about hard business facts and less about imagined threats to a sovereignty long since surrendered to the forces of globalisation.

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