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Fleet News Industry Conference 2003: Delegates believe Britain should join the Eurozone

DELEGATES at the Industry Conference have given their overwhelming support to the prospect of Britain joining the European single currency.

Only a small number of arms were raised when the 200 delegates were asked by conference chairman Huw Edwards who didn't believe joining the Euro would be advantageous to Britain's economy.

The debate gained momentum when the conference heard from pro-Euro supporter Kenneth Clarke MP, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Graeme Leach of the Institute of Directors (IoD), who believes British business would not benefit from joining the Euro.

Clarke believes British businesses would be at a competitive advantage operating under the Euro and that Britain would attract more inward investment from foreign companies.

He added: 'The benefits of joining the Euro include the free movement of services and goods across Europe. Our biggest market is across the European Union and one of the barriers to the free movement of trade is exchange rate fluctuations. Joining means companies here and in the rest of Europe would all face the same risk.'

Clarke admitted some sectors of British industry would not benefit as much as others under Euro membership but said multi-national companies were desperate to join.

Leach outlined the IoD's stance on single currency membership and said that Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown's five economic tests had not yet been met.

These include the first test of sustainable convergence and the ability for Britain to fit in with the European Central Bank's interest rates.

Leach added that the IoD could see a time when the British housing market, for example, would come into line with similar markets in the core Eurozone.

Speaking after the event, Clarke said he was not surprised to see so many supporters of the Euro at the event.

'These people work in businesses that are affected, such as exports,' he said.

Leach told delegates Britain needed to be more confident of its own abilities.

'It is a legacy from the 1960s and 1970s that we are not performing so well against some other European countries. We must have more confidence in our own economic strengths.'

And he added: 'If we are going to participate in Europe we need a lot more evidence that it will work.'

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