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Lord Simon, director of Unilever
"I think the most important issue now is looking forward, to having a more positive momentum"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 12 June, 2001, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
Unilever chief warns of euro 'indecision'
Unilever chairman Niall Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald: 'reason for being in UK would be taken away'
The chairman of Anglo-Dutch consumer giant Unilever has warned there will be "serious repercussions" if the UK Government continues to delay a decision on the euro.

Niall Fitzgerald has accused Tony Blair of "ducking the issue", claiming that continued uncertainty could deter many companies from investing in the UK.

Mr Fitzgerald says in an interview with the Financial Times on Tuesday that he wants Prime Minister Tony Blair to clarify his position on whether the UK should join the euro during the course of the next parliament.

Investors have been drawing mixed signals over Mr Blair's intentions regarding Europe, following the exit from the Cabinet of some noted "europhiles".

On Friday Mr Blair sacked Robin Cook - a prominent advocate of joining the European single currency - as foreign secretary.
Jack Straw
The new foreign secretary Jack Straw is more cautious over the euro

He was replaced by former Home Secretary Jack Straw, a minister noted for his more sceptical stance on entry into the euro.

Mr Fitzgerald is also chairman of the pro-European interest group, Britain in Europe, and has previously said in the UK press that Unilever would have to cut down investment in Britain if the country rejected the European single currency.

Referendum call

Mr Fitzgerald said the euro was only one of several factors taken into account by Unilever - and other large multi-nationals companies - when making investment decisions.

But he added that not holding a referendum would make Unilever - whose wealth of brands include Lipton tea and Dove soap - question whether Britain "was the appropriate place for the headquarters of an international company".

He told the paper that while Unilever - which is one of the UK's biggest companies - would not necessarily leave Britain in such a situation, "one of the most important reasons for us being here would be taken away".

Mr Blair has promised to hold a referendum on adopting the euro if the government feels the economic conditions are right for entering the euro.

Mr Fitzgerald said most people "expect that there should be a referendum by the autumn of 2002".

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