Nearly half of Britain's exporters believe euro will bring them benefits

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The Independent Online

Business warmed to the idea of British membership of the single currency in the run-up to the launch of euro notes and coins, according to a survey published yesterday.

Business warmed to the idea of British membership of the single currency in the run-up to the launch of euro notes and coins, according to a survey published yesterday.

The number of exporting companies that believe the euro would have a positive effect on their business rose in the last quarter of 2001. Euro notes and coins were launched on New Year's Day.

According to a survey by the logistics company DHL, 45 per cent of UK exporters believe the euro will benefit their business, compared with 37 per cent a year ago. "As the euro becomes common currency in many European nations, support for Britain joining the single currency is growing among exporters," said David Coles, managing director of DHL UK.

Britain in Europe, the pro-euro lobby group, said exporters would be the first sector to suffer as a result of the UK's isolation from the euro.

Simon Buckby, its campaign director, said: "As the impact of isolation hits the country as a whole – with jobs, investment, trade and prosperity all at risk – the public will draw their own conclusions."

Pro-Europeans believe that public opinion could be crucial in the Government's timing of a referendum on membership, especially if the arrival of notes and coins softens people's hostility to the currency.

They also hope that moves by Denmark and Sweden to push for a vote next year on joining the single currency will pile fresh pressure on Britain to follow suit and avoid becoming Europe's odd man out – the lone member of the EU with its own currency.

However, opponents of the project believe the arrival of euro notes in the UK is unlikely to persuade people to vote for the abolition of the pound.

The electorate is currently split two-to-one against abolishing the pound although the divide is more equal among businesses.

Two business organisations, the Engineering Employers' Federation and the British Chambers of Commerce, said they would poll their members in the summer to see if their attitudes had changed.

According to consensus opinion, the pound would have to fall around 10 per cent from its current rate of 62p per euro to reach an exchange rate that exporters would cope with on a permanent basis.

This would value the euro at 68p – equivalent to 2.87 old German marks, just below the rate of 2.95 that the pound failed to sustain within the Exchange Rate Mechanism.

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