Thursday, December 8, 2011

Euro doubters are being proved doubly right

It seems absurd now but a decade or so the UK was very close to joining the Euro. Tony Blair’s Labour government, popular and trusted (yes, it was a long time ago), was pushing for it and only some stubborn resistance from Gordon Brown kept Britain out.

One of the key “pro” arguments was that interest rates would be lower. The pro camp was obviously hoping to sell the Euro with a bribe of lower mortgage rates. I remember thinking at the time that this was a hollow and short-sighted argument.

Lower interest rates are not a good thing necessarily. Interest rates need to be high enough to balance saving and spending. Set too low and the risk is of unsustainable booms and horrible busts.

The euro-sceptics pointed out that a single interest rate for Europe would be bound to leave some parts too high or too low rates with nasty consequences. Events have proved the doubters right of course but there is more to the story.

The arguments against joining were not wholly economic. Indeed the dangerous economic consequences of joining were a side issue for most opponents who feared the political logic more: the Euro was an irrevocable step towards a European superstate which rendered national governments almost powerless on the things that matter.

Pro-Euro campaigners either played down the loss of sovereignty as scare-mongering or argued that it would be a good trade off – slough off your little-Britain hang ups and reap the economic benefits, they said.

Now the Eurozone threatens implosion that position looks ridiculous: all 17 members face the prospect of ruin and disaster unless they join together in a fiscal union. Exactly what the Euro’s opponents predicted and the Euro-enthusiasts perhaps secretly hoped for.

What will this Eurozone superstate look like, if indeed it gets off the ground? Again you don’t need a crystal ball to see the shape of things to come. It will be hugely wasteful of public money, highly bureaucratic, damaging to business and most of all grossly undemocratic.

The citizens of the Eurozone must already feel like they are helpless onlookers watching their political elites flounder in the crisis that they themselves created. They can now look forward to permanent Euro hell as the price for preventing economic meltdown.

From our website: A guide to Spain's autonomo system

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