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Parity – time to ditch the pound?

As the value of sterling sinks against the euro, inevitably the press are speculating about whether it’s finally time for Britain to ditch the pound and join the Eurozone.

From the sound of it, some people have already started. The Western Daily Press reported last week that several businesses in the village of Dunster in North Somerset have decided to accept euros instead of pounds on a one-for-one basis.

Western Daily Press: The euro in your pocket is welcome here

Of course, this isn’t unprecedented within the UK. Traders on either side of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic were well used to informal exchanges like this in the years after 1978 when the Irish pound (or punt) was no longer tied to sterling, and this continued after Ireland joined the eurozone. But the straight one-for-one exchange rate may lead businesses elsewhere to follow suit.

So what do the national press have to say about the prospects for the UK joining EMU? Not much, it seems.

The Financial Times doesn’t appear to have any interest in reopening the debate, although one commentary piece by David Hale suggests that investors seeking an alternative to the dollar would do better to look, not at another currency, but at gold.

The Sun has plenty to say, some of it coming in the shape of an op-ed by William Hague entitled “We must not join Mandy’s euro”. Good old Sun – you can always rely on its editors to whip up their readers’ gut instincts rather than engage them in reasoned debate.

The Daily Mail, as you’d expect, does much the same, though it dresses it up in a series of pseudo-respectable but rather specious voodoo economic arguments in a piece by Peter Oborne called “The pound may be in trouble but don’t be fooled by the euro gloaters. Their bogus currency will never see its 20th birthday”.

Even The Guardian doesn’t have anything much to say in favour of a shift. But it does carry a piece, “Currency Affairs” by David Seymour, former Mirror Group political editor, Daily Mail leader writer and council member of cross-party pressure group Britain in Europe, which is quite scathing about the hysteria of the anti-euro camp:

The problem for the Tories is that while they profess to be the party of business and the City, much of business and the City is deeply tied up in Europe and would benefit from euro membership. Which is why this week’s poll by Business for New Europe revealed that two in three companies want to keep this country’s options open over eurozone entry.

All we are asking for is a rational, intelligent, non-dogmatic, openminded debate. All we get is prejudice, ignorance and hysteria.