Monday, 1 June 2015

Britain avoids joining the Euro

Former prime minister Tony Blair was keen for Britain to join the eurozone but had to bide his time until the opinion polls start to move in the right direction. Fortunately, they never did so and Britain managed to retain the pound sterling. Nevertheless, it is still worth examining why it is crucially important to resist adopting the euro, and so control, as far as we still can, our own economic destiny. Despite the deliberate and cynical campaign of obfuscation by europhiles there is no avoiding the fact that joining the euro inescapably means that future British Governments would lose control over most key areas of economic management. As a consequence it would not be possible for either British politicians to be held to account for the performance of the economy. Since the issue of economic management has been a central feature of general election campaigns since the war, removing this issue from meaningful debate will strike a blow at the heart of our democratic self-determination as a nation.

Moreover, the supposed main benefit of euro membership, our so called 'influence' over EU economic decision making, is clearly a meaningless sham, since our views and interests can be overruled by a majority of other member states, and there will be no way for this to be prevented. It must surely be obvious that control over our own economic policy is infinitely more important and desirable than an elusive and shadowy 'influence' over external economic committees or a European Central Bank, and that assumes that ministers have any influence at all over the latter.

Furthermore, economic policy impacts on most other policy areas such as health, education, transport, defence and law and order, since they are all to a significant extent dependent on public spending. If economic policy is outside our control then it follows that our level of spending on these areas has also been lost. So a government that loses control over its economy eventually loses control over everything else. Consequently, as a result of all these reforms Britain would no longer, in ant meaningful sense, be an independent nation with its own laws and democratically elected government. It will begin to resemble an occupied country, since as a nation we will have no way of changing decisions that are against our interests, or the way we are governed, or our ability to pursue national priorities.

It is to the credit of Gordon Brown, both as Chancellor and Prime Minister, that he kept Britain out of the euro. He did so despite considerable pressure from so called 'progressives' and 'moderates' who were desperate for Britain to join. It is worth examining the reasons given for their enthusiasm.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto in 2001 stated that 'membership of the euro at a competitive and sustainable rate would offer Britain considerable benefits. It would end the exchange rate instability which has destroyed many thousands of jobs, safeguard the investment in hundreds of thousands of further jobs by overseas firms, and reduce the costs of trade with the rest of the EU'. Michael Heseltine, about the same time, opined that 'we cannot remain competitive outside the euro for much longer. We have lived through a decade of warnings and with those predictions we have always been offered choices. Now is the time for Britain to make a choice. For business the choice is clear'.

In reality there was no evidence for this alarmism. Unemployment in Britain continued to fall for over seven years until the 2008 financial crisis. We had much lower levels of unemployment than many countries in the eurozone. The claims of the euro fanatics, not for the first or last time, were wholly without foundation, and this was most probably known at the time by those 'moderates' making these claims. Instead their motivation was to further the political objective of ever closer union which, more accurately, can be interpreted as ever decreasing democracy.

Countries such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal lost control of their economic destiny, and became supplicants to the European Central Bank. They are caught in a vicious circle of bailouts, conditional on austerity and deflationary measures, which contract their economies still further thus requiring more bailouts, and so it goes on. There can be no doubt than these countries will eventually default and be forced out of the euro with disastrous consequences not just for the countries themselves but for the global financial and banking system. This is what happens when ideology triumphs reason.

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