The Times – 19 April 1999
You report (April 12) the conflicting results of opinion polls about business attitudes to economic and monetary union. Yet it will be the people who will decide this crucial issue, not the business community, and public opposition to replacing the pound by the euro is being underestimated.
Peter Riddell has rightly noted (article, March 1) that some recent polls have featured "a slightly altered question". However, the only objective way to assess changes, if any, in public opinion is to ask the identical question repeatedly.
On October 2 and 3, 1998, an ICM poll commissioned by Julian Lewis MP, asked: "Do you think that Britain should replace the pound with the single European currency?" Thirty-two per cent replied "Yes"; 56 percent replied "No".
However, on February 11, the Guardian newspaper claimed that its own ICM poll showed that "support for Britain to join the euro has surged to its highest ever level", with 36 percent in favour and 52 percent opposed. This poll made no reference to replacing the pound.
ICM was immediately commissioned to repeat the question, with the October 1998 wording. The fieldwork was carried out between March 5 and 7, before the resignation of the European Commission. This time the results were 30 percent "Yes" and 60 percent "No".
This shows that public opinion has, if anything, become more hostile to EMU over the past six months, and that findings to the contrary during this period are likely to have resulted from changes in the wording of poll questions, not in public opinion itself.
Rt Hon DAVID DAVIS MP
Rt Hon SYDNEY CHAPMAN MP
Rt Hon ERIC FORTH MP
Sir MICHAEL SPICER MP
House of Commons