Hague warns CBI of euro danger

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The Independent Online
William Hague yesterday warned business leaders that a European single currency could be like "a burning building with no exits". In contrast, Gordon Brown urged the country to get ready now for single currency membership, before making a referendum decision after the next election.

There could not have been a bigger contrast between the Government and Opposition on display at the CBI national conference in Birmingham, with Mr Brown and Mr Hague presenting two sides of the political coin - for and against the euro. The Chancellor said: "The euro will radically transform the whole single market. So from now my message is: let's get down together to the serious business of preparation."

He said the preparations that were needed were too important to be left to dogma or internal party politics, and too important to be left aside for years of more indecision and drift. But while the tenor of the Government line was constructive, Mr Hague, who received a warm welcome from the conference, could hardly have been more hostile - drawing together every possible argument for euro-resistance.

In one passage of five paragraphs the Tory leader offered 10 or so reasons for caution, saying: "We cannot ignore the fundamental differences in the structure of the British economy compared to other European economies. It is a fact that we do a much higher proportion of our trade with non- EU countries."

Mr Hague warned of wage cuts, tax hikes, and the creation of vicious unemployment blackspots, bigger booms and deeper recessions. And unlike the Exchange Rate Mechanism, he said, a single currency was for all time. "British business," Mr Hague warned the CBI, "could find itself trapped in a burning building with no exits." Reports, pages 8 and 22.