Tag Archives: euro

Daily View 2×2: 27 April 2020

I hope that you’ve all had a nice weekend, although I guess that, for some of you, each day is beginning to feel the same as the last. At Liberal Democrat Voice, our aim is to entertain, inform and engage, and so I’d better get on, hadn’t I?

2 big stories

Whilst the talk is of what happens next in the UK’s battle against Covid-19, elsewhere, the first steps towards normalisation have started;

In all four places officials caution that life is not going back to normal yet. For one thing, there can be no letting down their guard. The authorities have

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Marmite row – Nick Ferrari demonstrates ignorance of modern business

There’s been a lot of coverage today about the Unilever/retailer wrangle, which has led to some ranges of famous brand products being out of stock on, for example, Tesco’s website. Marmite seems to have been chosen as the leading talking point in this debate. Unilever appear to be asking for increases in prices for their products due to the fall in the value of the pound.

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In pictures: Today in Athens

Scenes from Athens today, as momentous discussions take place in Brussels. Scroll down to view. Hover your mouse or finger over the photo to read the caption, and/or double-click on the image to see it in context on Getty Images.

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Opinion: Lessons from Greece: why Liberal Democrats need to rethink their enthusiasm for the Euro

I can’t help but sympathise with Greece. In responding to the Eurozone’s latest debt offer, its people found themselves choosing between a rock and a hard place. The referendum was a bit like asking a vegetarian to choose between beef or chicken. The overwhelming rejection of the Eurozone’s proposals is the act of a nation with nothing left to lose: vote ‘yes’ and you sign up to breathtaking austerity and misery; vote ‘no’ and you take a huge step into the unknown that may take you down the same path, but one which also causes your creditors some pain, too.

The whole debacle clearly underlines why currency union without fiscal union does not work. It was something that Danny Alexander seized upon during the Scottish Independence referendum when he rightly pointed out that Scotland would have limited control over the direction of its economic policy if it kept Sterling in a post independence scenario.

And so it has proven to be the case with Greece. Faced with a single currency, and member countries with varying credit ratings under their old currencies, the banks concluded that all member nations should be offered the same one as the higher-rated nations. The seduction of cheap credit proved too much for Greece, which borrowed way beyond its means. A credit crunch later, and the wheels have well and truly come off.

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Opinion: Britain should join the Euro

Lib Dems have gone remarkably quiet about Europe, whilst the Conservative Euro-sceptic agenda gains ground, certainly within its party conference, and probably within its party at large. Euro-scepticism flourishes in large swathes of the UK media. This swing of opinion is fuelled by the perspective that the Eurozone economy is in dire trouble, that the Euro might not survive, and that the UK was very sensible to have kept out of it. We are told all this every night on Newsnight. Gillian Tett wrote recently in the FT, that her father was correct in dismissing the Euro project as unworkable 16 years ago, and she had been wrong in her Euro enthusiasm.

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Opinion: Liberal Democrats should abandon support for the single currency

Despite the media perception of the Liberal Democrats as a party of Euro fanatics, there is arguably a wider divergence of opinion

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Opinion: Kill the Euro before it kills Europe

The Euro was meant to secure the peace in Europe. Instead, it is the cause of conflict. Those who seek European harmony should now recognise that the Euro stands in the way. We need to understand why this is. Here is my take.

Most economic areas have a successful centre and struggling periphery. Think of London versus Northumbria in Britain, Germany versus Greece in Europe. How do winning and losing regions establish competitive equilibrium?

Within a sovereign nation, political pressures ensure large resource transfers from rich to poor regions. Taxes raised in the prosperous centre

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LibLink: Nick Clegg – Beware the risks and rewards of a banking union

Writing in the Financial Times this week, Nick Clegg warned:

In the debate on banking union we back greater co-operation on various aspects of an integrated financial system: common rules on the restructuring of failed banks, shared principles on how to protect depositors, high minimum standards for the capital EU banks should hold and a strong European Banking Authority.

Posted in Europe / International and LibLink | Also tagged , and | 4 Comments

The seven EU members who are less creditworthy than myself

Following Robert Peston’s comparison of what interest rate the Italian government is charged for borrowing money compared to what his own household would be charged (Italy turns out to be more creditworthy than the Pestons, but only just), I thought I would take a look to see how I compare.

Take that, then, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal, Romania and Spain. You are the seven EU members who are being charged a higher interest rate to borrow money long-term than I would be.

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Opinion: Cameron – a sorry tale born of inexperience

One of the problems with major European politico-economic events, such as the UK veto on fiscal measures wielded by PM David Cameron last weekend, is that it is hard to unravel what actually happened. As is often the case, we have a German view, a French view, a UK view, and then a European Commission and an European Central Bank view. Each slant is coloured by anonymous briefings and insider leaks.

The UK Conservative Party view, well spun in the Daily Telegraph, is that it is all the fault of the French and, to an extent, the Germans.

The UK line seems …

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It’s the Euro’s fate, not Britain’s fate, which is the key post-summit question

Sat on a shelf a few metres away from me is a box containing the various military medals won by my relatives over previous generations. The medals criss-cross Europe, coming from different countries, over the three wars that had a German-French conflict at their centre. To British eyes that count of three wars may seem odd at first, but for the German and French politicians building new European structures in the aftermath of the Second World War, their heritage was one of three wars – the Franco-German war of 1870 and then the two World Wars.

For them something drastic was needed to stop the dreadful arrival of conflict three generations in a row, each time on a bigger, longer and bloodier scale. Moreover, the wars were not started despite popular opinion, for they were all popular to start with.

That background helps explain two of the defining features of the European project – the determination of French and German politicians to stick together with each other and a sense that whilst democracy is good and welcome, and a vital antidote to the grotesque internal horrors of the early twentieth century dictatorships, the European project is about binding countries together rather than about giving people more democratic control over international affairs.

Add in another, far more recent, event – Brown winning out over Blair in keeping Britain out of the Euro (the closest Britain got to joining, for under Major that was never likely) – and Britain’s isolation after the last Euro summit is no sudden departure but rather a sudden, stark reminder of the quieter trends that have long been going on. The summit did not create those trends, however sharply it illustrated them.

Germany and France are, for reasons of history and economics, desperate both to stick together and to save the Euro. It was never essential to do more than try a bit to make nice to a country that is outside the Euro and whose largest political party has so often been hostile to so much European work. A country, moreover, whose leader chose to take his political party out of European alliance with mainstream continental parties and who had done precious little alliance building over the previous years with the key sources of power.

When France or Germany can wheel in Britain as an ally in their jostling with each other, Britain can exert some successful leverage, but fundamentally a different history and being out of the Euro has always made it the dispensable one of the trio.

More crafty negotiation by Cameron might have avoided the stark outcome of the summit, but the failure of his negotiating tactics did not cause the rifts. It simply shone a sharp light on the long standing political dynamic at the heart of Europe.

What the British government asked for at the European summit was not unpalatable to ardent pro-Europeans – Sarah Ludford MEP called it “reasonable” and Graham Watson MEP went one step further to call it “perfectly reasonable”.

But starting with that negotiating list, Cameron’s tactics at the summit did go off the rails, especially in turning down of the deal suggested by the President of the European Council only then to see the whole room turn against Cameron. Talking to people who saw Cameron’s support team after the talks broke down, they seemed genuinely shocked that they negotiating had turned out so badly and senior Liberal Democrats have been extremely critical of Cameron’s negotiating tactics at the summit. That the Lib Dem Deputy Head of Press has been retweeting today’s Independent story about Clegg’s fury over how Cameron conducted the talks is a pretty strong steer as to how accurate that story is. As one Lib Dem told The Observer:

He could not believe that Cameron hadn’t tried to play for more time. A menu of choices wasn’t deployed as a negotiating tool but instead was presented as a take it or leave it ultimatum. That is not how he would have played Britain’s hand.

But if you have allies who want talks to succeed with you as part of the outcome, when you dig yourself into such a hole people come to help pull you out. That is what would have happened if France or Germany had got into a hole. In Britain’s case, people did not come rushing to pull Britain out, instead they were happy to walk away from the hole.

As for the fallout, it is riddled with ironies. If the summit’s fiscal deal works and saves the Euro, that will continue the trend towards Britain being the outsider, but avoiding economic meltdown on the continent will be good news for our own economy. If the deal fails, then Cameron’s unwillingness to back it will look better, but the cost to the British economy will be great.

And that is what really matters and is really at stake at the moment: the Euro and the continent’s economy. The summit has not broken Britain’s position in Europe. Whether its steps are enough to save the continent’s economy from being broken is the big question. On that, the jury is very firmly still out.


Here’s the coverage from this morning’s BBC TV about Nick Clegg’s reaction to the summit and then an interview with myself. I do like the big picture of a glaring Cameron staring down at me part way through…!

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 30 Comments

Opinion: Ireland has many economic problems…..but it isn’t an argument against the Euro

As my native Ireland teeters on the edge of bankruptcy and bailout, sections of the British press have taken the opportunity to view Ireland’s difficulty as the Europsceptic’s opportunity.

Some of the comment has centred around the idea that British taxpayers will be asked to ‘bail out’ their feckless neighbours, as, apparently they were with Greece last year.

This article aims not to explore that argument further, as it is a debate too reliant on uncertain future events, and is framed within a Britsih nationalist context which it is not appropriate for me to explore.

Instead I want to focus on another aspect …

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Opinion: Another Greek tragedy? Time for Europhiles to admit the dream is over

In case you wouldn’t have noticed, another crisis has come on top of the big one.

For those who understand French, read carefully this article in the March 5 edition of French daily “Le Monde” . A former German finance vice-minister buries the euro as it is now and advises all Southern-Europe economies (including France) to get out of the Eurozone if they don’t clean up their act, behave more like Germany and adopt many unacceptable social measures. Some German backbenchers have suggested these might include selling off some islands (who would buy these? You guess).

That doesn’t yet …

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Daily View 2×2: 1 January 2010

Happy New (General Election) Year!

On this day in 1973, the UK joined the European Community, along with Denmark and the Republic of Ireland. On January 1, 2002, Euro coins and banknotes became legal tender in twelve of the European Union’s member states.

It’s a quarter of a century since Britain’s first mobile phone call was made. In a seemingly random intersection of the Fates, comedian Ernie Wise was calling from St Katherine’s Dock to a room above a Newbury curry house – the then office of a little company called Vodafone.

2 Interesting Stories

Is a Labour-Tory coalition unthinkable? Only until you think about it
Martin Kettle muses in the Guardian on a hung Parliament:

It seems innocent to assume that either Labour or the Tories would automatically turn first to the Liberal Democrats in those circumstances – or that the Lib Dems would necessarily deliver. The big parties could calculate that they would be better off in a marriage of convenience with a historic enemy they respected, from which they could withdraw with dignity when the moment was right, rather than to embark on a more permanent entanglement with a Lib Dem party which at bottom they each despise.

The more one looks at the evolutionary dynamics of British politics, the more serious the grand coalition option may one day become. Is a Labour-Conservative deal really unthinkable? Only until you start thinking about it.

At least the next government won’t be decided on the toss of a coin… or will it?

Coin tossing through the ages

The Telegraph has an interesting history, including this:

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Daily View 2×2: 31 December 2009

A windmill made of the flags of Europe with the slogan "whatever the weather, we must move together"Good morning on New Year’s Eve 2009 as we here at LDV Towers celebrate the passing of the year and indeed the decade. There’ll be fizz spilled on the Night Desk for sure, and I’m cooking beef wellington canapés and a chocolate/chestnut torte.

But what, I hear you ask over the hubub, happened on this day in history? Well, did you know that until the 1750s, the new year actually began on Lady Day (no, not her) in March? And in fact that’s why the tax year is still based around that time of year?

New Year’s Eve is the day on which, in 1951, the Marshall Plan ended (did you know the UK got more money out of it than any other nation? It didn’t help we still had the vestiges of empire to spend it in). In 1960, the farthing ceased to be legal tender; and in 1998, the value of the Euro was first establised.

Birthdays include Ben Kinglsey, Donna Summer, Val Kilmer and Alex Salmond – together at last!

Don’t forget Lib Dem Voice is still seeking your nominations for Liberal Voice 2009.

And one more thing – today there will be a Blue Moon – the second full moon within one calendar month. This won’t happen again until full moons either side of the London Olympics, in August 2012

But, finally, what of the newspapers and blogposts? Read more, after this:

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