The euro was accepted in a Sussex shop as the new currency was introduced across Europe.

Richard Carter, of DLB Newsagents, in Lyndhurst Road, Hove, was one of the first shops in the county to accept the currency.

Sarah Kennedy, from Ireland, popped into the newsagents near to where she was staying with her sister to buy The Argus.

Sarah from Dingle, County Kerry, said: "In Ireland, starter packs to get people used to the euro are available. I bought some over with me and it was good to find a local shop where they accepted it."

Francoise Glass, who runs the newsagents with Richard, said: "We have a lot of students near here and we have been telling them that we accept the euro. I am half Irish, half Dutch and have a French name so I have to accept the euro!"

The euro faced its first real test today as the people and businesses of the 12 member countries returned to work after the New Year holiday.

Although the long-prepared launch passed without serious difficulties yesterday, bank strikes in France and Italy threatened to cast a shadow over the first full day of business today.

French unions have called out thousands of bank and post office employees in a one-day stoppage over pay and conditions while six Italian unions have called out members working at the state bank.

In Britain, which along with Sweden and Denmark has not joined the single currency, it emerged that many customers paying in euros at stores which accept the currency will be charged a handling fee and may be offered poor exchange rates.

One of the first to discover the hidden costs yesterday was Keira Morgan Williams, the three-year-old daughter of a pro-Europe campaigner.

At Newcastle airport, where the pro-single currency Labour MP for Durham North, Kevan Jones, had just flown back from Amsterdam with a consignment of euros, she bought a packet of Smarties at WHSmith for 70 euro cents - which worked out at nearly 4p more than the price in sterling.

A spokeswoman for the retailer said selected outlets which accepted payment in foreign currencies, including the euro, routinely charged a fee of around eight per cent.

Meanwhile, ministers were last night accused of presenting euro membership as a done deal.

Europe Minister Peter Hain denied that he regarded British entry as inevitable after suggesting it was just a matter of time before the economic tests were met.

But Tory chairman David Davis said the Government was deliberately presenting resistance as futile.

Mr Davis said: "The fact that they are trying to ride the argument of inevitability demonstrates actually how weak their case is, that there aren't stronger arguments."