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Business Day Tuesday, 5 November, 2002, 15:45 GMT
NI debates life with the euro
Euro coins and notes
There is a strong euro lobby in border areas

The euro: to join or not to join?

That's a question high in the minds of many in the Northern Ireland business community.

And just like other sections of the population there are strong opinions on both sides.

Of course as the only part of the UK with a land boundary to the 'Eurozone', it's hardly surprising that the euro issue has generated more interest in Northern Ireland than in Great Britain.

For traders along the border, the existence of two currencies has been a fact of life for a generation, with the two fluctuating in value by more than 30%.


Of course, the critical question for them is joining at the right rate; join too high and the competition problems many face at the moment will be fixed for all time

At the moment, the strength of sterling and relative weakness of the euro is to the benefit of traders to the south of the border - at other times the boot has been on the other foot.

It is little surprise then that in border towns such as Newry, Armagh, Enniskillen and Strabane there's a strong lobby among many traders for the UK to join the euro.

Profit margins

Of course, the critical question for them is joining at the right rate; join too high and the competition problems many face at the moment will be fixed for all time.

In the short term, the approach taken by traders in many of these towns is to be as 'euro friendly' as possible.


There would also be greater price transparency, allowing direct comparison of suppliers' prices from different euro zone countries

They are quick to accept the currency and will often offer a better rate than the banks in an effort to win business, even if this means squeezing profit margins.

However, away from the direct impact of the border there is also a wider debate among business leaders on the merits or otherwise of joining.

Those in favour say the removal of currency transaction costs would create increased competitiveness, and certainty about the exchange rates would remove risk.

Business leaders

There would also be greater price transparency, allowing direct comparison of suppliers' prices from different euro zone countries.

Those opposed to any move to join the single currency say that the UK does more business with countries outside the Eurozone, and receives large amounts of investment from the United States.

In addition, they say, there would be higher taxes, and a loss of control over the economy, with interest rates being set by the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, instead of, as now, by the Bank of England.

BBC Northern Ireland asked 500 business leaders for their views on the euro and the result was a 60-40 split in favour.

You can have your say on this crucial issue for business.

You can vote yes or no by phoning, texting or e-mailing - call 08000 322262 to register a vote by phone.

Alternatively, call 07764 355 202 to text your vote, or e-mail it to businessdayni@bbc.co.uk

Phone and text lines open at 1700 GMT on Thursday and the results will be announced live on It's Your Business at 2235 GMT pm Thursday night.

See also:

01 Aug 02 | Business
12 Jul 02 | Business
02 Jul 02 | Business
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