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Monday, November 23, 1998 Published at 00:17 GMT

Business: The Economy

CBI says Europe 'huge opportunity'

Sir Clive Thompson: Europe has boosted the UK's trade

The UK must not lose sight of the benefits of European Union membership during the debate on joining the single currency, according to the president of the CBI.

European single currency
Sir Clive Thompson, sharing a platform with Tory Euro-sceptic Bill Cash at a meeting of the Danish Chamber of Commerce is expected say that even those who agree with Mr Cash should recognise the advantages of the single market.

He will be speaking in London just hours after a letter is published in the Financial Times, signed by Sir Clive and 99 other business leaders, urging the Government to join the euro as soon as economic conditions are right.

[ image: The majority of British firms now favour joining the euro]
The majority of British firms now favour joining the euro
Sir Clive will say: "So much heat and not much light is generated by debates on Europe and EMU in this country.

"We must remind ourselves that Europe is much more than EMU - a huge opportunity, but still a potential threat.

"What has the UK gained, or lost, because of its membership of the EU?

"Taking just one aspect of EU membership, the single market, the European Commission reckon that EU gross domestic product was around 1.1% higher than it would have been without the single market and there are up to one million more jobs.

"I suspect these estimates don't even begin to quantify the gains that we have made from increased competition and even greater exposure to our competitors and their ways of doing things."

He added: "Contrary to the fears of many back in the 1970s, our increasing trade with Europe has not forced us into a fortress Europe.

"The UK's trade volumes have grown by 138% since 1974 - three times the rate of economic growth. We have achieved that as part of the EU." Sir Clive will quote a recent MORI poll which showed three-quarters of British firms supported joining the euro.

He will acknowledge that sceptics are right to warn of the problems that a single interest rate across Europe could cause.

But surveys, he claims, suggest the majority of business people believe the risks are outweighed by the benefits.

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