15 January 1999

Thumbs-up for euro in Suffolk

FARMERS in Suffolk gave the euro a vote of confidence following a high-powered debate over its benefits for agriculture.

The event was organised by the 200-member Deben Farm Club and attracted an audience of nearly 150 people.

It ended with a vote of 85 to 37 in favour of a proposal put forward by local MP and former farm minister John Gummer, supported by James Black, a leading Suffolk pig farmer, that membership of the single European currency will have very significant advantages for British agriculture.

Peter Clery, a former agricultural banker and businessman, and Marc Glendening, campaign director for the Democracy Movement, formerly the Referendum Party, had argued that the euro would not bring the claimed stability to agricultural economics and should be regarded as "fools gold" – a significant step along the road to a federal Europe.

Mr Gummer said he was against a federal Europe but believed Britain needed to be where decisions on the new currency were being taken because of its importance to the countrys agriculture.

"Is it sensible to put ourselves in a position where the decisions which matter to Britain and to its agriculture are being made without our being able to intervene?" he asked.

But Mr Clery said agriculture was only a small part of Britains economy and this was major strength for a "decent" democracy in ensuring a fair level of support.

"The few pathetic advantages put forward may not materialise and in any case are totally offset by the disadvantages of loss of political and financial control, massive unaccountability and enormous and inefficient bureaucracy," he added.