Right of Reply: Christopher Smallwood
Wednesday 03 March 1999
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POOR DAVID Owen. He may have just launched New Europe, the "first sensible-looking organisation dedicated to campaigning against the euro", as Donald Macintyre puts it, but his latest enterprise is doomed before it starts. Why? Because he is on the "wrong side of history". Or so Mr Macintyre argues.
Yet, as the philosopher Isaiah Berlin remarked, "history has no libretto". In other words, nothing is inevitable.
And the truth is that time is on New Europe's side. The fault lines in the euro edifice are already beginning to show. The nonsense of imposing one interest rate across the whole of Europe is already plain to Oskar Lafontaine as a rate too high for Germany drives that country into recession. And it will be equally so to Bertie Ahern as rates far too low for Ireland send that country up in a blaze of inflation.
When the CBI sees Europe's economies destabilised in this way, it will have to revise the unthinking view that the euro stands for stability and growth. And business will certainly think again when it appreciates the force behind the current Franco-German drive to harmonise taxes, social costs and regulation across Europe. As will the TUC, when the penny drops that this means European levels of unemployment here in Britain.
Given time, British people will realise that being given one vote out of 12 to influence economic decisions in France and Germany in return for surrendering 11 votes out of 12 over what happens here is not good for trade. And, if they do not like what euro bodies decide, they will be able to do nothing about it - democratic accountability will have gone.
Time is on our side. Which is another way of saying that David Owen finds himself on the right side of history.
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