ANALYSIS: Both sides of the euro divide

The Chancellor wants to take Britain into the euro in 2007, but the industry is deeply divided on the issue.

On 9 June, Chancellor Gordon Brown set out a four-year plan to take Britain into the euro on 6 April 2007. In an eagerly awaited statement to the Commons, he ruled the time was not right for a referendum and confirmed that Britain only passed one of his famous five economic tests.

Brown did announce a sweeping reform package designed to bring the economy into line with the rest of Europe by next year and predicted that adopting the euro could boost trade by 50% over 30 years. "It will bring lower business costs worth £1bn a year, an end to fluctuating exchange rates and greater trade with the European Union," he said.

On the surface, this sounds like positive news for the UK exhibition industry. European venues can offer quotes for long-term business without worrying about exchange rates. But as things stand, European organisers may be put off coming to Britain because of the perceived expense and British stand contractors were unable to benefit from the stronger euro while working at the Paris Air Show in June.

Referendum countdown

But during the run-up to a referendum the UK events industry will have to look beyond political soundbites and weigh up the pros and cons of doing business in Britain and in Europe. We've asked two senior industry figures to present the case for and against the single currency.

Do you agree with their views? Tell us what you think. The address for emails and letters is on p14.

FOR - Peter Tudor, Wembley London director of sales and marketing

Research by Wembley Exhibition Centre shows tight budgets are a worry for 95% of event organisers in the UK. This also applies to European organisers who see London as an expensive event destination.

The introduction of the euro and the subsequent value loss of currency conversion have heightened this perception. To compete on an international scale, the UK must be an attractive and cost-effective option for organisers based in Europe and beyond.

It is inconvenient for organisers to compare currencies and budget for the expense by estimating long-term exchange rates. Venues trying to alleviate this by quoting for long-term business in euros and hedging on exchange rates find the process expensive and unpredictable.

Joining the Euro would change all this and bring massive benefits to the UK events industry.

In the meantime, Gordon Brown has condemned UK venues to a continued struggle to compete on equal terms with their more cost-effective European counterparts. Britain is financially on the fringe of Europe and big businesses that move their headquarters into the euro zone will quickly realise that European venues are not only more central, but cheaper too.

Joining the euro would provide a welcome boost to an industry whose confidence has been rocked by recent world events.

AGAINST - Nick de Bois, Rapiergroup managing director

The euro could do more harm than good. True, we would be less subject to currency fluctuation but our service industry is less suspect to this than others. Outward-looking firms seeking international business should embrace this flexibility, not be frightened of it.

Will more shows come to Britain if we adopt the euro? I think not. If UK venues continue to focus on infrastructure and facilities, backed up by a government committed to improving communication links, then, yes, we may win more shows. Will more US and European firms use British designers and stand contractors because we adopt the euro? No, but they will if we continue to be flexible, creative and competitive. The euro has little influence in the first two points and can only damage the latter.

All of us who undertake projects in France know that to reclaim French VAT we have to go through a host of complex procedures. This is a good example of how ineffective cooperation is between European countries.

Why should the events industry draw comfort from a promised land of further European harmony and stability by adopting the euro when the evidence to date is of bureaucracy, inefficiency and out-of-date practices?

It would be a shame to roll back the years of achievement and threaten our future with one fundamental economic change.


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