Political foes line up to sing the euro's praises

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A CAMPAIGN to help Britain learn to love the euro was launched yesterday by the European Movement, marking the 25th anniversary of Britain joining the European Union.

Two government ministers - Peter Mandelson, Minister without Portfolio, and Lord Simon, the DTI minister responsible for EU affairs - lined up with opposition politicians, the director general of the CBI and the general secretary of the TUC to emphasise the importance of European integration.

Mr Mandelson described the past quarter century as a time "in the main of missed opportunity. We are determined that things are going to be different from now on."

He added: "No one should under-estimate the potential of the euro."

One of the many MPs present at yesterday's launch said: "The significant thing about this event is that it marks the professionalisation of the pro-Emu campaign."

A report prepared for the European Movement, a pressure group with cross- party support, by Andersen Consulting on the economic gains of a quarter century of EU membership suggested membership of the single currency was the path to greater prosperity.

The 25 years since Britain joined the Common Market - as it was then known - have seen enormous improvements. Not only do many more Britons take foreign holidays, own telephones, TVs and other consumer goods, but the pattern of trade and investment has also tilted us decisively towards the Continent.

Lord Simon said: "We have become European through trade. We may not all feel it, but it has become the reality of our lives."

The report showed that the share of British exports to the EU had nearly doubled from around 30 per cent to 60 per cent between 1973 and now. Many of the biggest inward investors in Britain are European companies. UK membership of the EU also explained Britain's attractiveness to overseas investors from the US and Asia.

Vernon Ellis of Andersen Consulting predicted the single currency would boost the member economies. "There is no doubt in my mind that it will act as a powerful lever to improve competitiveness within the euro zone," he said.

A survey the consultancy conducted into business attitudes to the single currency revealed the proportion believing Emu would be good for Britain had risen from 27 per cent to 67 per cent. But Mr Ellis said a clear lead from the Government would generate even greater business enthusiasm.