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Tuesday, July 20, 1999 Published at 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK

UK Politics

Business groups at war over euro

The merits of the euro have split business leaders

A fresh row has erupted between British business groups campaigning for and against the European single currency.

The employers' organisation, the Confederation of British industry (CBI), is set to reaffirm its conditional support for the euro when it publishes the results of consultation with more than 5,000 firms.

But the anti-euro pressure group Business for Sterling (BfS) has accused the CBI of being out of touch.

BfS Chief Executive Nick Herbert said the rival group represented the opinions of only a tiny proportion of UK companies.

BfS Chief Executive Nick Herbert: CBI represents less than one in 1,000 businesses
"The CBI has only 2,300 members out of 3.7 million businesses in the UK," he said.

"They are dominated by pro-euro diehards and downsizing multinationals. They simply do not represent the views of most businesses on this issue."

The spat is the latest incident in a bitter war of words between business groups over the euro. It follows the CBI's rubbishing of a BfS poll in March in which 63% of the firms questioned wanted to keep the pound.

CBI Director General Adair Turner said that result was "skewed" as only 10% of the 1,000 companies surveyed were members of his organisation.

Prior to that BfS had attacked a previous CBI survey of 1,700 member firms which showed backing for the euro.

CBI consultation 'a charade'

[ image: CBI's Adair Turner: Not the voice of British business, his critics say]
CBI's Adair Turner: Not the voice of British business, his critics say
Mr Herbert has dismissed the results of the latest CBI consultation - which is also expected to show support for the single currency - even before they are published.

"The CBI has been wedded to Economic Monetary Union (EMU) for years. They set out to reinforce their pro-euro position and no-one should be surprised that they achieved it.

"The whole process has been a charade," he said.

"Every other survey of business and public opinion is moving against the euro.

"The memberships of the Institute of Directors and the Federation of Small Businesses have come down against it.

"The CBI seems divorced from the reality of business concern about the higher taxes, regulation and loss of economic control entailed by EMU."

The CBI commissioned a poll of 5,000 firms and has held separate consultations with a further 400 companies to gauge the latest business opinion of the euro.

The outcome will determine whether the CBI changes its current policy of supporting the principle of British membership of the single currency - if and when the economic conditions are right.

Firms were asked a series of questions, including whether Britain should join the euro as soon as possible, or never.

They were also asked about the likely impact on employment.

The CBI has refused to comment on the findings of the poll until the results are formally announced on Tuesday afternoon.

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