Letter: Gaining currency
Tuesday 04 August 1998
Sir: Christopher Johnson (Brown wants stability: he has given us stop- go, 30 July) has explained our way into the EMU, or rather, to another probationary period in the ERM, more clearly than most Euro-enthusiasts. We must briskly wind our interest rate down towards 4 per cent, while containing inflation by briskly increasing taxes on consumers, the people who "spend money in supermarkets".
These are the people who already pay more heavily than they know, every week, for EU disasters such as the common agricultural and fisheries policies, for our endless EU trade deficit, and for its hostility to developing countries and to free trade outside its boundaries. Contempt for the interests and awareness of the ordinary electorate seems to be a hallmark of Euro- enthusiasts everywhere. It is the essence of the EU's "democratic deficit".
Mr Johnson's argument assumes that the European Central Bank, and the plotting squabbling cabal of EMU political leaders, will display a level of fiscal prudence, probity and expertise, not to mention political honesty, not available among our own politicians. The Bank has just been created. It is untried, unstaffed, and already a political football, due to the diverging self-interests of the French and German blocs. The leaders of the main EMU countries used an extraordinary variety of one-off fiscal fiddles to try to meet their own agreed fiscal criteria for EMU membership. Having failed, they have agreed to ignore the criteria. The Maastricht Treaty meant nothing; the Stability Pact will mean nothing. What if it is unilaterally breached by, say, France? Civil war? To placate their suffering electorates, these same leaders have promised various kinds of jam tomorrow, to be paid for by somebody else - mainly the Germans, who are understandably getting tired of this. We should commit our economic and political future to such people, and to vetoes from mighty Luxembourg?
The EMU is the hastily botched vehicle of a fragile Franco-German entente resting on basically divergent political agendas. It is supported by a bunch of other, mostly minor states, which expect to prosper further at the expense of France, Germany and, preferably, us. We don't need it, our membership is not inevitable, it is inefficient, inward-looking and undemocratic. It is also the natural progression of the EU, which we should leave now.
M J KNIGHT
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