28 November 1997

THREAT OR OPPORTUNITY FOR UK AGRICULTURE?

ECONOMIC AND MONETARY UNION –

LOVE or loathe the idea, Economic and Monetary Union promises to have a big impact on the health of UK businesses for generations to come. Even if the UK decides not to support EMU, monetary union on the Continent is likely to have powerful consequences for the UK economy.

But what will EMU mean for UK agriculture? To answer that question, farmers weekly has assembled a group of experts to address our conference Economic and Monetary Union – threat or opportunity for UK farming? at Londons Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre on Mon, Feb 23, 1998.

Would UK farming fare better within EMU or outside? How would monetary union affect support payments made to UK farmers? What would happen to support payments if the UK stayed outside monetary union?

To help separate the fact from the fiction over EMU membership, we will devote the morning session to studying what monetary union is likely to mean for the UK economy in general and farming in particular.

A MAFF spokesman will spell out the governments view on EMU membership, while shadow farm minister Michael Jack MP will explain the Conservatives policy. The new NFU president will detail his unions view on the implications of EMU.

The afternoon session will start with an insight into the European Commissions strategy on monetary union from a spokesman from the Economics Directorate DGII.

Next, two panels of speakers, one devoted to the livestock sector and one dealing with the arable sector, will focus on how supporting or shunning EMU membership is likely to affect UK farmers.

Livestock panel speakers include Mick Sloyan, the MLCs head of pigmeat strategy, David Yeomans, chief executive Milk Marque, Bill Madders, farmer and COPA milk committee member and Sean Ricard, Cranfield University.

Speakers on the arable panel include Stephen Thornhill, HGCA director of marketing information, Michael Banks, company director of Banks Agriculture, James Townshend, director of Velcourt and Michael Murphy of Cambridge Universitys Depart-ment of Land Economy.

There will be ample opportunity to ask questions. So make a date in your diary for Mon, Feb 23 at Londons Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. Whether you believe that EMU would be a blessing or a bane, make sure you have your say at our conference.

Sir Edward Heath, former prime minister: "We have known for a long time that the great majority of businessmen want a single currency. Its never been explained to the people of this country what a single currency means or what it entails, what the benefits of it are."

Martin Feldstein, Professor of Economics at Harvard University: "If EMU proceeds, the independence of the European Central Bank and the goals of monetary policy will become sources of serious conflict among member countries… Although it is impossible to know for certain whether these conflicts would lead to war, it is too real a possibility to ignore in weighing the potential effects of EMU and the European political integration that would follow."

William Hague, leader of the Conservative Party: "Is Britain ready to join something which could easily lead us to handing over our powers to raise our own taxes and spend our own money?"

Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer: "I believe there is a growing consensus for the principle of a single currency. These preparations are not cosmetic but real."

Sir Stanley Kalms, chairman of Dixons: "The nearest example is castration: our voices may be pitchedhigher in the councils of Europe but only at the cost of our economic virility." (on joining EMU).