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UK protest over new currency

LONDON, England -- British anti-euro protesters have carried a coffin to the Bank of England in protest against the introduction across Europe of the new currency.

The small group from the Campaign for an Independent Britain carried the coffin bearing the message, "Death of 12 nation-states -- killed by the Euro," on Wednesday.

Organiser Jim Reynolds, 60, told the UK Press Association: "We are bringing to the public's attention the dangers of joining the euro. We will lose control of interest rates, taxes and monetary policy.

"Yesterday Romano Prodi said that the euro was not an economic project but a political project. The government have failed to give any strong economic reasons for joining."

He added: "Our message is directed squarely at the British public and we are warning of the great dangers of joining the euro.

"The countries who have already accepted the new currency have lost control of their economies, they can't set their own interest rates or determine economic policy."

Earlier on Wednesday, protesters in black armbands handed "death notices" for the 12 European currencies that have been replaced by the euro.

Protesters gathered outside London's Liverpool Street and Fenchurch Street rail stations and other locations in the capital's financial district, the City.

As the single currency becomes a reality, CNN's Robin Oakley analyses the political implications the Euro will have on Europe.

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They also waved placards urging people to Keep our Pound.

Britain, which is the fourth-largest economy in the world, is one of only three European Union countries -- along with Sweden and Denmark -- to retain its national currency.

Despite the fact that Britain opted out of adopting the euro, many shops and service providers said they would be more than happy to take it.

The euro bought just about anything British shopkeepers had to offer on Wednesday -- even though the pound still reigns supreme in Britain.

Department stores Harrods, Selfridges and Marks and Spencer have embraced the euro in recognition of the high percentage of foreigners who pass through their doors.

Topshop, one of the biggest fashion retailers in Britain, was pricing its clothing in both sterling and euros, and accepting payment in either currency -- although transactions were not totally straightforward.

Opinion polls show that Prime Minister Tony Blair faces an uphill battle convincing Britons to adopt the euro, which became an everyday reality for 300 million Europeans on New Year's Day.

The latest ICM poll for the Guardian newspaper published two weeks ago showed 58 percent of Britons still oppose joining the euro.

But 62 percent of those surveyed believe euro membership with the next 10 years is inevitable, suggesting any possible future referendum on joining the euro would be close fought.

The Campaign for an Independent Britain is part of a grass-roots movement that seeks to preserve the pound and pull Britain away from a raft of European Union legislation.

Blair's Labour government has stuck to its four-year old policy that it will offer the public a referendum on euro membership only if it judges euro entry to be in Britain's economic interest.


• Europe's leaders hail new currency
January 1, 2002
• Euro debut going to plan
January 2, 2002

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