Toyota warns Tories on Europe

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The Japanese car manufacturer Toyota, one of the biggest overseas investors in Britain, yesterday warned the Government about the dangers of becoming more detached from Europe and of turning its back on a single currency.

Toyota has spent more than pounds 1bn on its UK car and engine plants. A senior executive of the company also indicated that Toyota's attitude towards investing in Britain, would not be altered by the appearance of a Labour government.

Iwao Okijima, an executive vice-president of Toyota, said: "I sincerely hope Britain will not become semi-detached from Europe or a single currency, because we are here not just to serve the UK market but the whole of Europe."

Mr Okijima added that if a single currency was adopted, it would be "incredibly beneficial" to manufacturers in Britain. He also said there seemed to be a very slim gap between the policies of the two main parties and that whichever party won the next election, it would probably pursue "moderate policies".

His comments appear to undermine the claim last month from Ian Lang, the President of the Board of Trade, that large numbers of inward investors would be deterred from coming to Britain in the event of a Labour victory.

Capacity at Toyota's Burnaston plant in Derbyshire is set to rise to 200,000 by the end of 1998, when production of a second model, the Corolla, begins alongside the existing Carina E. The car plant and the engine factory on Deesside, north Wales will, by then, be employing 3,000 people. Mr Okijima said that this year just over a quarter of the 400,000 cars it expects to sell in Europe would be built in the UK. But in two years' time it hopes to beselling 500,000 cars of which 40 per cent would be built in the UK.

He said that the advantages of being able to deal in a single currency would be substantial and that most entrepreneurs would be against Britain moving away from Europe or opposing monetary union.

The Government is still under intense pressure from Conservative right- wingers to rule out participation in a single currency in the lifetime of the next Parliament. The CBI, however, has said it will not support a manifesto that rules out the option of joining a single currency after the election.