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Thursday, September 24, 1998 Published at 18:52 GMT 19:52 UK

UK Politics

£20m fight against euro

Campaigners say few know what the euro will bring

A millionaire Euro-sceptic businessman is joining forces with the movement that fought the last General Election as the Referendum Party.

Paul Sykes has pledged £20m to the 'Democracy Movement', an amalgamation of his own anti-European single currency campaign and the Referendum Movement - set up by the late Sir James Goldsmith.

At the last election Mr Sykes donated cash to the election campaigns of Tory Euro-sceptics.

Meanwhile, the Referendum Movement - then called the Referendum Party - stood its own candidates where those of the main parties had not declared in favour of a referendum on the future of the EU.

The new organisation says it is the "largest and most effective anti-federalist group in Britain".

[ image: Sir James Goldsmith: Family continues to fund campaign]
Sir James Goldsmith: Family continues to fund campaign
It says will be a non-party organisation, focusing on what campaigners see as the threat to Britain.

The movement says it has a mission "to inform the British people of the facts".

Some of the information will come from a panel of experts, including advisers from every nation of the EU as well as the US and elsewhere.

Mr Sykes will be chairman and chief spokesman, while Robin Birley, current Referendum Movement head, becomes vice-chairman and campaign chief.

Funding for the merged organisation will come from Mr Sykes and members of the Goldsmith family.

The movement will not have a membership, tthough people will be invited to register as supporters.

Elections 'will not matter'

Mr Sykes has an estimated fortune of at least £250m to spend on the campaign after building up Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield and Internet provider Planet Online before selling both.

[ image: Paul Sykes: People are unaware of Euro implications]
Paul Sykes: People are unaware of Euro implications
He said he had always had a "dialogue" with the Referendum Movement and had spoken to Sir James before his death.

"The new movement was rapidly starting to come together when I realised we needed grassroots activists throughout the nation and we've only got so much time. We met and very quickly put things together."

The Yorkshireman was a member of the Conservative Party for 27 years but left because it was insufficiently Euro-sceptic for him.

He wished William Hague well as the Tory leader holds his ballot of party members on an anti-Euro policy for the next election.

But he warned that future elections would matter little if the government calls a national referendum on joining the single currency and voters say yes.

He quoted his own research which suggested 93% of people knew next to nothing about the currency. "A lot believe they're just going to get the euro and go on holiday with it.

"They don't realise it will affect the way they vote and work and the whole future of Britain's independence."

'Rich sceptics' propaganda'

Pro-Europeans dismissed the new grouping as a rich mens' outfit.

Stephen Woodard, director of the European Movement, said: "Paul Sykes has brought the failed Referendum Movement, but the British people will not be brought."

Mr Woodard said joining the euro would lead to cheaper mortgages, more jobs and lower prices.

"Staying out in the long term will be economically dangerous. These are the issues that really matter to the British people. They want to get the facts, not propaganda from rich anti-Europeans."

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