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Tuesday, November 2, 1999 Published at 18:44 GMT

Business: The Economy

Portillo attacks euro fans

Michael Portillo: quotes from the Bible

Former defence secretary Michael Portillo has accused those who are willing to scrap the pound of being the extremists over the euro.

In a debate on economic and monetary union at the Confederation of British Industry annual conference, he said there was nothing extreme in wanting to save the pound.

He said: "The extreme position, the dogmatic position, is from those who say we are going to do something that has never been done before."

Mr Portillo, who described himself as a "half caste" by virtue of his Spanish father, said vital decisions affecting people's lives in the eurozone were being taken by the unaccountable European Central Bank.

He quoted a passage from the Bible to show how "intrinsically linked" was control of a currency and political power.

The full title of EMU includes economic union, said Mr Portillo, with the monetary aspect getting the coverage because scrapping a currency is something which could be easily understood.

"The idea that a major economic power like the UK has no future on its own is phenomenon which is peculiarly British. There is nothing which leads us to believe we are doomed if we don't join the euro," he said.

'False patriotism' warning

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said that eurosceptic views were not in British best interests. "Despite all their flag waving, they are not patriotic.

"Let me blunt, insularity is false patriotism. They have a vision of Britain in Splendid Isolation, deciding its fate at will.

"True, it would be isolated, but it would be far from splendid. Our voice counting for less and less. Especially in America," he said.

'Power and authority'

The BBC's Sarah Dickens reports on one pro-Euro company
Lord Marshall, chairman of Britain in Europe, also attacked those who have suggested the UK turn towards the US rather Europe for membership of a trading bloc.

He said: "US business leaders and politicians want strong links with Britain, because we can deliver in Europe. A forlorn, stand-alone UK would be an economic orphan, to be humoured; not a partner of power and authority to be respected.

"I happen to believe that the majority of people will be on the affirmative, pro-Europe, pro-EMU side, because the benefits will become outstandingly clear and demonstrably clear."

Rodney Leach, chairman of Business for Sterling, claimed backing from two-thirds of the British people for remaining in the EU but not joining the eurozone.

"The suggestion is being made by the pro-euro lobby that Britain must either pull out of the EU or discard its own currency.

"That is not only false but dangerous."

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