Letter: Europe or America

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Officers of the European Movement endorse a statement signed by 114 business people who claim to represent the view of British business ("Grandees tell Blair to stop stalling on Europe", 30 November). They do not comment, however, on the small print of the statement, which contained an intriguing line: "Membership of the single currency, if it works well, will promote trade, investment, and economic growth. Each of these helps to create jobs."

One must ask what happens if it does not work well.

At the best of times, the structural, political and social variations across Europe suggest a "one hat fits all" approach to monetary policy will be fraught with difficulties. Yet national monetary policies will be abandoned on 1 January in favour of a single euro interest rate. A "weighted average" Euro interest rate will frequently be wholly inappropriate for many of the participants.

Equally worrying, the issue of European tax harmonisation appears firmly on the agenda. If the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, insists the UK can resist tax proposals from Brussels, let him explain why, for example, European law forbids him to reduce VAT on fuel to zero?

"Harmonisation" is a huge threat to business in this country. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the labour markets. In the UK, non-wage labour costs (taxes, social security contributions and regulation costs) account for 40 per cent of wages. This compares with 82 per cent in Germany, 93 per cent in France and 102 per cent in Italy. This is a major reason why aggregate unemployment in the euro-11 countries has remained stubbornly above 10 per cent in the last five years, whilst UK unemployment has halved to around 5 per cent.

EMU is a dangerous risk for the UK.