Magazine article Management Today

Promise Behind the Euro Threat

Magazine article Management Today

Promise Behind the Euro Threat

Article excerpt

When the familiar currencies are supplanted by the new one, a tide of transparency will sweep Europe and UK firms will be forced to compete in euros

I remember with a wry smile my first encounter with public opinion and British attitudes to Europe in the 1960s. I was working at the time for a TV company producing a documentary about our possible membership of the Common Market. Wandering the streets of London in search of vox pop, I caught sight of a voluminous stallholder who gave promise of an instant view about more or less any subject under the sun.

'Good morning,' I began. 'I wonder if you would like to give me your view of the Common Market.' Without hesitation she replied: 'I'm against these supermarkets. They are putting little people like me out of business, aren't they?' No doubt which way she would have voted in a referendum.

Little doubt either that today there are hundreds of thousands like her nodding emphatically as they read the daily diet of Eurosceptic reporting that characterises much of our national press. To be fair to the press - a gesture unlikely to be reciprocated - they point to a ready-to-quote range of politicians available to feed their increasingly voracious appetite. Certainly in my party, the language is assuming a new permanence. While once the argument was for caution, consideration and decision, today the arguments increasingly sound as though hurdles are being replaced by brick walls, open minds by deaf ears. 'Britain out' is no longer off the agenda, but more an agenda working its way on to the list of options.

Nothing I have heard has yet shaken my view that the last five Conservative prime ministers were right when, in office, they told us that our self-interest was inextricably interwoven with that of our European neighbours. Macmillan, Home, Heath, Thatcher and Major articulated the practical concepts that reflected a judgment I certainly have held for 50 years or so.

For the small and medium sized businesses that have sprung up and flourished since the mid- 1980s, the arrival of the single currency presents perhaps the greatest threat and the greatest opportunity. Which of these two options it will turn out to be is in the hands of each of them. Their future will rest on the extent to which they anticipate and prepare for the changes that are coming. Those changes will come whether we adopt the single currency or not. And that is why it is right for managers now to prepare for probably the greatest overnight change in our trading conditions that we have ever faced.

You can see the dawning of what it all means in industry. …

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