7 September 2001
Tory candidates clash over farm Euro

By Isabel Davies

THE two candidates for the leadership of the Conservative Party have clashed over the issue of the Euro and its implications for UK farmers.

Kenneth Clarke and Iain Duncan Smith disagreed about the contribution that joining the single currency would make to agriculture.

Their comments came in the final days of the leadership contest which has extended throughout the summer and closes on Tuesday (11 September).

Iain Duncan Smith said it was a popular misconception that joining the Euro would cause farm prices to improve because Sterling will be devalued.

The terms of the Amsterdam Treaty state that sterling will not be significantly devalued from current levels should we join, he said

We will lose control of our own interest rates and taxation; the wrong rates can be disastrous as countries within the euro-zone are finding today.

But Kenneth Clarke said one of the key reasons for the crisis in farming was the high level of Sterling relative to the Euro.

This has had three impacts – more expensive exports, cheaper imports and lower level of support because of the Pound-Euro parity.

Membership of the Euro, provided it were at an acceptable exchange rate, would bring stability and allow farmers to rebuild their markets, he said.

But there was some agreement between the two candidates when asked about their vision for the future of the British countryside and farming.

Mr Clarke said it was false to assume that only large units would survive and the key would be containment of costs.

There will and must always be a place for commodity production, but the market for recreational and environmental goods will grow in importance.

Mr Duncan Smith said the UK should produce as much of its own food as possible and value-added opportunities should be maximised.

Food production should continue to be the central activity with diversification into food processing and tourism adding value, he said.

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