“Europe is wonderfully diverse – and sharing a currency doesn’t change that”
There can be few things about this time of year more excruciatingly annoying than hearing people buzz while on vacation – except maybe having to look at their vacation photos.
I therefore do not intend to dwell on myself, but I will make a brief mention of it.
I just made the first trip abroad in seven years. It was a weekend in St Malo, Brittany, immediately followed by one of my usual city breaks in Belfast.
I stayed within the historic city walls of Saint-Malo, and that’s exactly how I’ve always imagined rural France, with cobbled streets, small squares with live accordion music, a huge old cathedral, dark but serene, good food, good wine and good looking women.
Some Brits accuse the French of being rude but everyone seemed friendly, polite and forgiving of my clumsy attempts to speak their language. Maybe the Bretons are different. Or maybe it’s stupid to generalize to an entire nation.
It was obvious that there were no signs of an obesity epidemic in Britain. Even the most avid Brexiteers have to admit that France beats us with its cuisine, the elegance of its language and the attractiveness of its people.
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The city break in Belfast allowed me to find my family, the old places and the couple of friends who have not emigrated for a long time, as I did 32 years ago.
I had a few euro banknotes left over from France and first tucked them away in the pages of my passport, ready for my next trip to the eurozone. But I ended up spending them all at home.
Belfast may be part of the UK, as any Ulster trade unionist will remind you, but border area shops and Belfast department stores have always been keen to attract shoppers from south of the border by accepting the Republic of Ireland punt.
Now that the Republic is in the Eurozone, many stores in the North are just as happy to accept it. I handed over a 10 euro note and got my change back in sterling. Likewise, many shops just across the southern border are happy to accept sterling.
As long as it’s hard currency, the stores don’t care. And it was hardly worth changing my euros into British currency and having to pay commission at a money changer, when I could just spend them instead.
I make no secret of my fear that Brexit will turn out to be a terrible mistake. It seems crazy to turn your back on a huge potential market on our doorstep.
Our likely next prime minister, Margaret Thatcher impersonator Liz Truss, felt the same and backed the 2016 EU referendum – until she decided it was better than her career prospects change and become a strong supporter of Brexit. .
Much of the anti-EU sentiment has to do with ugly hostility toward foreigners, not “taking back control” or anything else.
And I don’t see how being ruled by “anonymous unelected bureaucrats from Brussels” is any worse than being ruled by anonymous unelected bureaucrats from Whitehall.
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However, I have always been agnostic towards the euro. I know about as much about economics as I know Swahili, so I have no idea if this would be a good idea or not, although I don’t know of any harm, economic or otherwise, that he inflicted to the countries that have adopted it.
But it would be much more convenient, not only for tourists with spare euros, but also for businesses and anyone who needs to travel. Money changers might not like this, although they could still trade in US or Australian dollars.
You don’t have to be in the EU to adopt the euro, but that’s unlikely to happen here anytime soon. Politicians would be far too frightened by the hysterical reactions of Europe’s enemies if they ever suggested such a thing. We would see the headlines “Traitors” and “Enemies of the People” again.
Chances are, however, that an independent Scotland will eventually adopt the euro, and I’m sure the shops in Carlisle would soon accept them.
They say that Europe’s strength is its diversity, and they are right. Belfast is very different from Barcelona, Carlisle is very different from Copenhagen, Workington is very different from Warsaw – and you don’t get that level of diversity and multiculturalism, in what in overall terms is a pretty small space, everywhere elsewhere in the world.
Travel from Portugal to Poland and you will witness an endless variety of landscapes, architecture, food, drink, traditions, languages and culture in general.
Cover a similar distance on a road trip across the United States and there will be an endless monotony of “gas stations”, McDonald’s and Burger King and motels beyond description.
There will always be an England and a Scotland, a France, an Italy and a Denmark. Sharing the same currency would greatly facilitate travel, shopping and business, and it would in no way weaken the distinctive character of our European countries.
If so, I would be 100% against it.
If there is an economic reason why the euro is a bad idea, I am happy to hear it. But the only real problem I had with euro coins, when they first appeared, was that I couldn’t get the paper money off.
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