UK liable to pay at least £3bn towards rescue

Sean O'Grady
Sunday 23 October 2011 08:12

Despite never having joined the eurozone and after an explicit guarantee by the chancellor, George Osborne, of no further aid to the eurozone after a loan to Ireland last year, the UK will be liable for at least £3bn to help fund the Portuguese rescue.

Part of that comes from an obscure and dwindling EU Commission fund that the UK is still signed up to, designed to help member states out of balance of payments difficulties – long before the present crisis engulfed the continent. This is confusingly termed the European Financial Stability Mechanism and, strictly, has nothing to do to the eurozone's European Financial Stability Facility, with which it is often confused. The UK is nonetheless signed up and would have to loan Portugal that £3bn.

An additional bill derives from the UK's membership of the IMF, as all these rescues are partly funded through that body. The IMF has pledged €250bn to the rescue fund, and the UK has a 4.8 per cent share – say a €12bn total potential liability for all future euro-crises that is an embarrassment for a government under such financial pressure at home – though the Portuguese rescue may only cost another €1bn or so.

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