Birmingham celebrates the arrival of the single European currency

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The Independent Online

The Government's official position on the euro might still be prepare and decide, a slight and subtle variant on wait and see, but in Birmingham, at least, they are celebrating the arrival of the single currency.

The Government's official position on the euro might still be prepare and decide, a slight and subtle variant on wait and see, but in Birmingham, at least, they are celebrating the arrival of the single currency.

It was confirmed yesterday that the Birmingham Mint, part of the Royal Mint, had won a multi-million pound contract to produce euro coins for the Germans.

The deal will safeguard 140 jobs in Birmingham and follows an unprecedented legal action to secure the contract in the face of strong competition from subsidiaries of Germany's mint.

The prestigious and lucrative order originally went to a German bidder but when the Birmingham Mint heard about the order it launched a case in German courts, claiming that European Union rules had been breached because tendering for the work had not been wide enough.

The case was upheld and now the £30m job of turning out the blanks for the euros has gone to Birmingham. Simon Murphy, the city's Euro-MP and leader of Labour's MEPs, said: "This shows that whether Britain is in or out of the euro, [the currency] can be good for the country." A spokeswoman for the Royal Mint added: "We are pleased for them. It's very good news."

With a certain sense of irony, the news came as the European Commission began legal moves against Britain for allegedly breaching EU rules on the way that public contracts are awarded.

In three separate cases the commission claims that Britain failed to follow strict procedures set out in a number of EU directives on public procurement that are designed to ensure fair and open tendering for work.

The Birmingham Mint relied on the same rules to put Germany in the dock for not opening up the tender for euro coin production to enable outsiders to bid in fair competition.

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