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European Monetary System

Volume 957: debated on Thursday 9 November 1978

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14.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what discussions he is having with leaders of industry and commerce in Northern Ireland about the possible implications of the United Kingdom joining the proposed European monetary system.

I am in close touch with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other colleagues on this matter, and I will, as always, ensure that full account is taken of Northern Ireland's interests. However, I have not discussed the specific implications of joining the European monetary system with leaders of commerce and industry.

As many experts think that it is probable that there will be a substantial dislocation of trade in Northern Ireland if the Republic joins the EMS and the United Kingdom does not, would it not be wiser for Ministers to give some thought to this problem now?

The hon. Gentleman will understand that I have given a great deal of thought to this matter. But I think that it is too soon to involve the industrial and commercial leaders in Northern Ireland, because the terms of entry into the EMS are still very unclear.

In addition to the advantage outlined by my hon. Friend, does not the Secretary of State agree, too, that there is every possibility that the Province would get even more Community resources and aid than at present?

It is difficult to say because we do not know whether the Irish Republic will join or whether the United Kingdom will stay out. These are all hypothetical questions at this stage and much of the future in this respect is unclear.