Iceland, the EU and the Euro-elections
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 30th January, 2009
Iceland is now seriously considering applying for membership of the European Union, having followed a ‘go it alone’ policy for many years (mainly to try to keep control over its fishing grounds). The country metaphorically sank when the tide of the global financial crisis washed over it, making not just politicians but also the general public realise that at times of crisis, it is maybe wiser to be inside a big tent rather than outside on one’s own. As all prospective members of the EU have to agree to adopt the euro, the Eurozone is therefore likely soon to absorb Iceland and reach up into the northern Atlantic, leaving Britain sticking out like a sore thumb. This is bound to reignite debate about the UK’s eventual adoption of the single currency.
In a recent Europe policy paper, passed by the last Liberal Democrat autumn conference in Bournemouth, the party reiterated its belief that Britain should join the euro in due course. That does not mean we will be campaigning in this year’s Euro-elections for immediate Eurozone membership — indeed, the pound sterling needs to recover quite a bit before it would be at an appropriate level for that to happen — but we should not ignore the issue. Informed opinion is beginning to shift on the desirability of Eurozone membership and I believe British public attitudes on the matter are starting to change.
Yesterday afternoon, I participated in a meeting at the European Parliament in Brussels between British MEPs, some of their staff and the London-based European elections manifesto team, chaired by Danny Alexander, MP. It would be improper of me to divulge details of the discussions, but suffice it to say that the elections are indeed going to be fought on European issues, notably the way that Europe can work together better to tackle current economic challenges, as well as climate change and other environmental priorities, and cross-border security issues. It will doubtless be a huge relief to all those who were embarassed by the party’s failure to pin its European colours to the mast in previous European elections that this time there is to be no ambiguity. The Liberal Deùocrats have a unique selling point on this in the UK context and at least 30 per cent of the British electorate agrees with us, so let’s go for it!