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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Toyota President Causes Row On Monetary Union in Britain

LONDON -- The head of Japanese carmaker Toyota stirred up a pre-election row among Britain's ruling Conservatives by seeming to rule out building new factories in the country if it stayed out of Europe's single currency.


The reported comments by Toyota president Hiroshi Okuda on Wednesday plunged the Conservatives into fresh arguments over Europe and whether Britain should sign up for the first stage of Economic and Monetary Union, or EMU, in 1999.


The fracas delighted the opposition Labour party, well ahead in polls in the run-up to the next general election which must be held by May 22.


Okuda said Toyota would shift its European investments to continental Europe if Britain did not join EMU and said the firm is reviewing its level of investments in the country.


Spokesmen for Japanese carmakers Nissan and Honda, which also have major British operations, said they had no plans to cut investments.


But all attention was focussed on Okuda, whose words came as an unpleasant shock to a British government that has made great play of its ability to attract major investment.


Last year Toyota built 117,000 cars at its plant in Derbyshire, central England.


Most British right-wing newspapers said Okuda did not know what he was talking about and had failed to realize there was growing opposition in Europe to the idea of the euro, the common European currency.


"Toyota, and everyone else, should look at the facts about the euro rather than listening to the well-funded Brussels misinformation," said the tabloid Daily Express.


The Conservatives are split on the question of a single currency. Prime Minister John Major has so far resisted pressure from so-called Eurosceptic legislators, who say joining EMU would end Britain's sovereignty over its own affairs.