UK 'must redouble economic efforts', says William Hague
The latest string of credit downgrades in the eurozone requires Britain to "redouble our efforts" to boost economic growth, Foreign Secretary William Hague urged today.
He claimed the renewed questions over the credit-worthiness of countries, including France, also demonstrated the importance of the coalition Government's deficit reduction strategy.
In a dramatic new blow to the struggling single currency, Standard & Poor's stripped France of its gold-plated AAA credit rating on Friday, and also lowered the long-term ratings on Austria, Malta, Slovakia, and Slovenia, by one notch.
The rating levels for Cyprus, Italy, Portugal and Spain were dropped two notches.
Mr Hague said the ratings did not in themselves bring closer the prospect of the demise of the euro.
But, speaking to Sky News, he said: "This is serious, it underlines the fact that the eurozone is not through its problems.
"We want it to be stable and healthy. That's in our national interest. But it means that across Europe, including the UK, we need to redouble our efforts to get growth going."
That meant more free trade agreements with the rest of the world, advances in the European single market and less regulations that damage business, he said.
Those were the demands that Prime Minister David Cameron would be taking to the next meeting of the European Council at the end of this month, Mr Hague added.
He also claimed that Labour's plans to reduce the deficit more slowly would put Britain's AAA credit rating at risk.
"These events do underline the importance of what we are doing here in the UK," he said.
Asked about Foreign Office contingency planning to rescue Britons living in Europe in the event of the collapse of the euro, Mr Hague said that did not mean he thought it was going to happen.
"We have contingency plans in the Foreign Office for a very wide range of eventualities; it's because of that we were able to respond quickly to something like the cruise liner disaster that we've seen in the last couple of days," he said.
"It's our job to prepare for what may happen, however unlikely it may be.
"So yes, we do have contingency plans for a variety of events that may happen in the eurozone over the coming months. We wouldn't be doing our job if we didn't do that.
"That doesn't mean we believe all these things are going to happen."
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