UK ignorant on euro

Treasury survey shows that only 11 per cent of firms know single currency start date

BRITISH firms are alarmingly ignorant of the impact of the euro and business faces chaos in 1999, according to a Treasury survey of small- and medium-sized companies.

The survey of 1,300 companies found that only 11 per cent of boardrooms know that the European single currency starts operating on 1 January next year. And a mere 5 per cent have take any steps to prepare for the impact it will have on the business environment across the whole of Europe.

Chancellor Gordon Brown has responded to the high level of unreadiness by ordering an acceleration of the Government's information campaign directed at businessmen, despite the risk of Opposition charges that he is softening up Britons for eventual adoption of the euro.

He told a meeting of the EMU Standing Committee: "The results of this survey show the urgency of better information on the euro reaching small- and medium-sized business firms.

"The launch of the single currency will have a profound effect on British business. Firms need to start preparing now as the countdown to 1 January begins."

Ministers were dismayed at the results of the survey carried out by the Treasury's Euro Preparations Unit, which covered a 1,000 firms with fewer than 50 employees, and 300 with 50-200 workers. Despite 60 per cent of Britain's trade going to Europe, the investigation showed an extraordinary lack of grasp about the impact of the single currency.

The Treasury has set in train a series of initiatives designed to advise business on what they must do to prepare for the single currency. The unit has set up a euro website, a telephone hotline, and a succession of seminars in the regions.

The next seminar will be held in Glasgow on 8 June, and will be hosted by Helen Liddell, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, and Scottish Minister Brian Wilson. Another will be held in London on 23 June, hosted by Barbara Roche, the DTI Minister with responsibility for small firms.

The 10-member EMU Standing Committee, which is chaired by the Chancellor and brings together the DTI, the Bank of England, the ministries covering Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, plus the CBI, the Chambers of Commerce and the Financial Services Authority, has also discussed the state of preparations across the economy for 1999, and how best to compile an outline plan of the steps that would be needed if the UK does decide to join the euro.

This development will also be seized upon by the Chancellor's critics as evidence that he is preparing the ground for British entry by a Labour government after the next election, subject to a referendum on the issue.

However, a Treasury spokes-man insisted: "This government has made it clear that business here will be affected whether we are in or out of the euro. Our survey shows that businesses think there is no need to prepare because we are out - but just because we are not joining at the start doesn't mean that we should not be preparing. The survey shows the urgency of getting information to business."

Ruth Kelly, MP for Bolton West and a Labour member of the Treasury Commons Select Committee, said: "This investigation shows it is absolutely essential that businesses are prepared for the start of the euro. They are clearly going to lose out if they are not ready."

Companies trading in Europe will have to change their accounts systems and computer systems, and be prepared to take payment in euros.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'