Letter: Join the euro club

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ONE UNDERSTANDS that it is one of the roles of a serious journalist to provoke thought, to suggest the implausible and to question accepted wisdom. However, Hamish McRae (Comment, 22 April), surely had his tongue firmly in his cheek in suggesting that Britain would be as well off economically in the North American Free Trade Area (Nafta) it would be as a full member of the euro club.

It is true that historically the UK has invested heavily in North America. But in future the opportunities for investment in Europe, where corporate rationalisation and consolidation has a long way to go before reaching the mature state of the US economy, will be far greater. These investment opportunities will be greatly enhanced by economic and monetary union. They would not be duplicated on the same scale by membership of Nafta if the UK remained a sterling island in a large US dollar bloc.

Equally, I would suggest, the cultural affinity between Britain and the rest of Europe, based on shared historic moral and social values, is stronger than our identity with the laissez-faire doctrines of the US.

Plan A should be to declare our firm intention to join EMU as soon as possible, preferably before the next general election. This would ease pressure on the pound. It is, of course, a good idea to have a plan B up one's sleeve; it should be to commit the UK to joining EMU as soon as economically possible after 2002.

Any other solution would relegate the UK to a very minor role in world affairs. It is a kind suggestion of Mr Gingrich, but I suspect that once we were inside Nafta the Americans would eat us for breakfast.

NEIL MONTGOMERY.

Woodbridge, Suffolk

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