Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 28th November, 2012
Though many — perhaps too many — Brits rub their hands in glee that the UK is not part of the troubled eurozone, and therefore may sometimes benefit from currency fluctuations, only UKIP MEPs and other delusionists could relish the thought of the single currency’s collapse. “Europe”, as so many in Britain continue to refer to the Continent, as if we are somehow not part of it, is still the biggest single market for British goods and is likely to remain so for some time, despite the rise of the BRICs — Brazil, Russia, India and China. Moreover, those who would like us to become another Norway, being part of the European economic area but having no say in the rules and regulations that govern it, are positively unpatriotic, in my view. I was glad that Vicky Pryce, former Chief Economist at the Department of Trade and Industry and later working with Vince Cable at the Department of Business and Skills, stressed, at a Pizza and Politics put on by Islington Liberal Democrats this evening, that the UK is far better in than out when it comes to the EU. The author of a recently acclaimed book, Greekonomics*, she has since her departure from government employment become something of a guru on what is happening in Europe’s economy, with particular in relation to Greece, whence she originally hails. Indeed, she is forever popping up on the TV and radio as the one commentator who knows what she is talking about on the subject, yet does not slag off her compatriots as good-for-nothing lazy tax-dodgers. That is, alas, the image still in the minds of many Germans, for example, though they would do well to acknowledge just how well Germany has done out of the single currency — selling goods left, right and centre — even if they are now expected to bail out the declining European periphery. I was struck by Vicky’s comments about the possibility of the need for a debt write-off for Greece and possibly some others, as their debt levels are unsustainable and will only drive them further into the sloough of despond. I was reminded so strongly as she spoke of the Latin American debt crisis that I used to commentate on for the BBC in the late 1980s. I asked her whether she could ever envisage Britain during the euro — as Peter Mandelson, amongst others, have suggested. She was cautious about the possibility — more so than myself — but she didn’t rule it out completely.
* Biteback Publishing
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: EU, euro, eurozone, Germany, Greece, Greekonomics, Islington Liberal Democrats, Peter Mandelson, single currency, Vicky Pryce, Vince Cable | 1 Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 11th January, 2009
The European Movement held a day conference on 10 Years of the Euro at University College London yesterday, though any sense of celebration was overshadowed by a deep feeling of frustration that Britain has failed to ‘opt in’ to the single currency, and that the mood of such a large proportion of the British public remains Euro-sceptic. The media were mainly blamed for that, though there was a ray of hope on that front offered by one of the keynote speakers, Graham Bishop, when he pointed out that increasingly people get their news and views from the Internet, rather than from newspapers, so the Rupert Murdochs of this world are losing influence.
However, national governments are as much to blame as the media for giving a distorted view of what the EU is all about. As the former Conservative MEP Ben Patterson said – in a paper ‘The Euro: Success or Failure’, tabled at the conference — ‘All EU governments are tempted to blame “Europe” for difficulties of their own making. Electorates generally have little idea how EU decisions are taken, and are only too willing to believe that there is vast, unelected Eurocracy in Brussels, imposing absurd regulations out of the blue.’ In other words, if in a pickle, blame Brussels.
The second keynote speaker, another former Conservative MEP (and now active Liberal Democrat) John Stevens asserted that that the Eurozone is not going to collapse, nor will any country leave it. On the contrary, it has just acquired its 16th. member, Slovakia, and others are in transition. The Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told me a few months ago that he was going to do what he could to persuade the Danish public to join the euro, and similar moves are afoot in Sweden. Which just leaves Britain as the last bastion of euro-scepticism. But as John Stevens said yesterday, ‘If Britain were to join the euro, the euro would be made.’ The EU is proving that it is possible to have an international currency, which can be a model for other parts of the world and help ensure that European political values have clout in changing global geopolitics.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Ben Patterson, Denmark, euro, European Movement, eurozone, Graham Bishop, John Stevens, Rupert Murdoch, single currency, Slovakia, Sweden, ten years of the euro, The Euro: Success or Failure?, UCL | 1 Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 30th December, 2008
Yesterday was the first day of the Muslim year 1430. It’s unusual for the Islamic (Hijra) and Western calendars almost to coincide in this way, as the the former is about 11 days shorter than the latter. And for many in the Arab world, this had led to hopes of a joyful, extended holiday. But with Israel launching its ‘all-out war’ against Gaza, people are not in the mood for celebrating. There was a dignified demonstration by several hundred Palestinians and local sympathisers on the Corniche here in Manama yesterday afternoon (Bahrain being one country in the region where political demonstrations are allowed).
Gaza is understandably dominating the summit meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which opened in the Omani capital, Muscat, yesterday. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, Prime Minister of Qatar — which is the only GCC country which has diplomatic ties to Israel — rang the Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, to inform her that ‘Arabs feel that Israel had no intention of achieving peace’. This bodes ill for 2009.
The global financial crisis is the other big issue for the GCC leaders, but this should not in principle stop them progressing with their plan for a regional single currency (provisionally dubbed the ‘khaleej’, or the gulf), by 2010. This plan is very much based on the EU’s model. But Oman — perhaps inspired by Britain’s example — is going to opt out.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Bahrain, Gaza, GCC, Gulf Cooperation Council, Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, hijra, Islamic New Year, Israel, khaleej, Manama, Muscat, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, single currency, Tzipi Livni | 1 Comment »