Right of Reply: Michael Edwardes

The industrialist criticises a recent leading article in favour of the UK joining the euro
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THE GOVERNMENT landed business with a heavy bill this week. The costs of making businesses euro-compliant will be up to five times the cost of dealing with the millennium bug. The single currency will tax British business before we have even decided to join. The price will be paid by consumers, and in lost jobs.

Less than a fifth of our GDP is exported to Euroland. The majority of businesses do not trade with the Eurozone: either they produce for domestic consumption, or they sell worldwide. So most businesses would get none of the supposed advantages of being in a regional currency zone, but they would pay all the penalties: higher business taxes and employment costs, and - most lethally - a common interest rate, which might suit the Continent but could well not suit Britain.

The argument that fixing our exchange rate will bring us "stability" is not new. It was big business, via the CBI, that argued for Britain to join the Exchange Rate Mechanism. But the multinationals were not among 100,000 firms which went bankrupt as a result of crippling interest rates.

Of British businesses, 99.9 per cent employ less than 500 people. They are the engine of the economy, responsible for a growing share of British employment. Tony Blair seemed to understand this when he said, just two weeks ago, that "small and medium-sized businesses are where the jobs growth is going to be". A pity, then, that he ignored the warning of the Federation of Small Businesses and the Institute of Directors.

Britain's unemployment rate is half that of the Eurozone. We have created more jobs in the last six years than the rest of the EU. If the euro will be so good for our business and prosperity, why will it be so bad for jobs?

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