Small business leaders cast an envious eye at the eurozone's stability

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The Independent Online

Leaders of British small businesses believe the euro has been a success by a margin of four to one, a poll today discloses. The survey for YouGov also found that a clear majority believed the currency had a long-term future and that Britain should keep open the option of membership.

The vote of confidence came as sterling slides towards parity with the euro, which marks its 10th anniversary today. Although Labour and the Tories remain opposed to ditching the pound, the economic crisis has revived debate over whether it would ultimately be in Britain's interest to join the eurozone, which today acquires its 16th member in Slovakia.

According to the poll, conducted for the think-tank Business for New Europe, 56 per cent of business leaders believed the euro had succeeded since its launch, compared with 14 per cent who thought it had failed. A total of 61 per cent believed it was a sustainable currency in the long term, while 18 per cent disagreed.

The poll suggests that the deepening recession has boosted the case for joining the euro among leaders of small business, with 41 per cent saying the crisis had strengthened the argument for British membership and 32 per cent believing it had weakened the case. Roland Rudd, chairman of Business for New Europe, said: "Business leaders appreciate the success of the euro over its first decade. It has defied the doomsayers who predicted failure."

Ministers were accused last month of secretly plotting to scrap the pound after Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President, claimed Britain was "closer than ever" to joining the euro. He told a radio interviewer he had spoken privately to "the people who matter in Britain" and they were considering the future of sterling. His comments were widely seen as a reference to Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary. Lord Mandelson said he had not discussed the subject with Mr Barroso for "years" but added: "My view is that the Government is right to maintain the long-term policy objective of taking Britain into the euro, but it is not for now."

The poll of 506 small business decision makers was carried out online by YouGov between 19 and 22 December.