By Philip Clarke, Europe editor

THE first taste most British farmers will get of the new Euro notes and coins will be when they make their next trip abroad.

And, as familiarity with the new money grows, so the debate on whether or not the UK should join will intensify.

Opinion on this crucial issue appears as divided as ever.

A straw poll at a recent FARMERS WEEKLY business breakfast suggested three-quarters of all farmers think we should have nothing to do with the single currency.

Their objections were politically driven, revealing an unwillingness to concede more power to Europe or risk being sucked into a European super-state in return for unproven economic gains.

But plenty of participants supported the UKs membership of the Euro.

“The Euro will allow greater price transparency, which ought to lead to cheaper goods and services for the UK,” said one participant.

And, like it or not, the Euro is here to stay.

As long as the UK is on the outside, farmers are going to be as exposed to fluctuations in the currency markets as they ever have been.

The biggest question therefore remains: What will be the value of the Pound against the Euro?

In the short term, much will depend on the ease of transition to the new currency. But the real crux will be how the euro-zone economies perform in the medium term.

The track record to date is not impressive, pointing to continued Euro weakness/Pound strength and further pressure on farm incomes.

But, at some point, the government will call a referendum.

The advent of notes and coins and the gradual infiltration into the UK of the new money should at least get the debate going.