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Business

Euro Creep

The UK is not in the euro-zone. That’s the official line. Yet businesses are gearing up for it in a big way and not just in the accounting departments.

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"Never Mind the Euro"

The tills have long been adapted and the euro is welcome from Harrods to WH Smith’s. Even if UK politicians are still toeing the anti euro-line.

It has already been dubbed “Euro Creep”, a play on the introduction of the euro by the back door and creep, as in creepy. But it is happening and the euro is establishing itself as a parallel currency next to the trusted Pound.

The anti-euro lobby is up in arms about the phenomenon. The main anti-euro group started a mass poster campaign just days before the introduction of the new currency across Europe.

The campaign involves 40 000 posters and one million leaflets and comes as recent opinion polls suggest that public sentiment against the new notes and coins may be softening.

Based on an album cover of 1970’s punk band the Sex Pistols, the message on the posters reads “Never mind the euro – it’s the hospitals.” The intention is to remind the public of the ruling Labour government’s election promises to improve hospital waiting lists.

The response from the pro-euro camp was swift.

“You’d have to pretty vacant to think that the government has to choose between the issue of the euro and improving hospitals. It can and must do both”, says Simon Buckby, of the Britain in Europe group.

The euro is one the UK’s favorite bones of contention. And yet businesses across the UK will accept payment in euro, like the electronics giant Dixons – although the company’s boss, Sir Stanley Kalms is a member of the anti-euro “Business for Sterling” group.

Other big companies, like British telecom, are giving customers the choice whether they want to pay their bill in Euro or in Pounds. And many more firms are going the same way because trade partners on the continent insist on doing business in euro.

Even the prime minister Tony Blair has made some pro-European speeches in recent weeks, saying Britain had been hurt by decades of missed chances to be fully engaged in Europe and stressing it must no longer lag behind.

But many Britons are not going to be swayed easily. Not now, not ever, if the eurosceptics get their way. And they make up a substantial part of the electorate.