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Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 13:44 GMT
Q&A: Euro cash in the UK

300 million consumers in 12 countries will swap their national currencies for a new single currency, the euro, on 1 January. The UK is not in the eurozone, but as BBC News Online explains, the euro is bound to have some impact nonetheless.

Will the launch of euro cash on 1 January change anything in the UK?

A pound stays a pound.

But as tourists arrive in the country, they will bring euros with them, just as they used to come with their French francs and Dutch guilders.

Banks, post offices, foreign exchange bureaux and duty free shops will need to be euro-ready.

The same holds true for shops and restaurants in tourist areas that already accept foreign currencies.

Staff must be trained to recognise notes and coins, and cash registers and accounting systems need to be able to handle euros.

Exporters and importers that trade with the eurozone, will have to adjust their book keeping to deal in euros - unless their trading partner is happy to pay or buy in pound sterling.

I've got lots of francs, pesetas, lira and schillings left over from previous holidays. Can I still use them?

You will have to use them up quickly - and you are not alone.

A recent survey suggests that UK citizens hold about 540m in old eurozone cash.

In the eurozone

If you go on holiday, shops in most eurozone members will accept the old "legacy currencies" until 28 February 2002.

In three countries the cut-off date is even earlier: Netherlands 28 January, Ireland 9 February, France 17 February.

After that, most banks will accept old currencies until the end of June 2002 - although you may have to look around for a branch that accepts them.

If you miss that deadline, you will have to go to the national central bank of the country where the legacy currency was legal tender.

It will swap your escudos or drachmas for euro notes and coins.

In the UK

If you don't plan to travel, you must act even faster, and it will cost you.

There is no firm cut-off date, says the British Bankers' Association (BBA), but most banks will accept legacy currencies until early February.

Some banks, however, have warned they will deal in euros only from January, so you may want to get rid of your money before Christmas. And all transactions will be subject to the usual charges.

If you hold large amounts of eurozone legacy cash, you should get in touch with your bank before turning up at the branch office, advises the BBA.

Remember: Banks and bureaux de change will not accept any of your coins - and never have.

And if you have a kind heart, you can always give your old eurozone money to good causes.

Several charities have set up the logistics and special deals to turn the old money into hard cash, and hope for an extra euro windfall.

Ok, but I plan to go on holiday in January and want to sort out my holiday currency now...

That's no problem. Outside the eurozone you can't get euro cash before 1 January, so simply order your lira and franc as usual.

You will have to spend them before the cut-off date, though, and be prepared for receiving crisp euro notes and shiny euro coins in return.

A pocket calculator may be handy as well, to check whether 23 French francs change really equals 3.50 euros, or whether the shop keeper is as confused as you (or trying to pull the wool over your eyes).

Will UK shops accept euros?


In Northern Ireland for example, close to the border with the Republic, the Irish punt is widely accepted in most shops, and will simply be replaced by the euro.

Across the UK some shops and restaurants already accept currencies from the eurozone, because they want to make life easier for tourists and don't want to lose out on that business.

So if you stay close to top tourist destinations in the UK, you may be able to pay with euro notes and coins.

But there are some firms that definitely will not accept euros.

The most famous - or notorious - is the Wetherspoon chain of pubs, whose chairman Tim Martin is an active campaigner against the single currency, plying his customers with anti-euro beer mats and posters.

Will UK firms use euros in the UK?

Only if they have agreed to do so.

Pound sterling is the UK's legal tender.

But some big multinationals operating in the UK have asked their UK suppliers to bill and pay them in euros.

Among the firms asking for euro settlement are top firms such as Nissan and Black & Decker, according to the British Chambers of Commerce.

Nobody can be forced to use the single currency.

But if a big UK-based customer insists on trading in euros, the British supplier will have to choose between aversion to the euro and losing the contract.

See also:

14 Nov 01 | Business
Britons hold 540m in eurozone cash
21 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Government's 'limp' euro effort attacked
04 Oct 01 | Business
Many Britons ignorant of euro
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