Monday, September 20, 2004

Blair, Brown and the Euro

The rather bitter-sounding book by Derek Scott, one of Tony Blair's former advisors, is getting a lot of coverage at the moment. A section was extracted yesterday in the eurosceptic Sunday Times, which (amongst the vitriol, speculation and attempts to sound clever) had some good points that can help to clarify thinking on British attitudes towards European monetary union (Emu). I'm quoting bits here as much for my reference as anything:

"Views in Britain about European monetary union (Emu) can be divided into three camps. First, those for whom the economics of the single currency are irrelevant, such as Edward Heath. Next, there are those who think it is economically flawed and politically a step too far. A third group want to join because they believe that there are distinct political advantages, but they think that the economics have to be “right” — and it is not always clear what “right” means."

I'd certainly go with that, to an extent. There is also a fourth group - the rabid "patriots", the xenophobic and racist mindset which is against the Euro because they want nothing to do with the frogs and the krauts and the deigos and the spicks. They dress it up in clothes of being bad for the UK, but never explain precisely HOW (except for lies and distortions about the power of Brussels).

I'd put myself in the third group, only with a proviso. The economics may not be "right" at the moment; they may become "right" at some point in the future - if we join then, that will be beneficial for Britain. But economic conditions fluctuate unpredictably all the time. No one predicted the Wall Street Crash.

In other words, joining the Eurozone will ALWAYS be a risk, just as staying out will always be a risk. Economics is not predictable. So we may as well take the plunge now - we have no idea how Britain will continue to survive outside the Eurozone, we have no idea what will happen if we join. The only reason the economic conditions need to be "right" is for the political campaigning advantage that would lend the yes campaign. To wit:

"Nobody should underestimate [Blair and Brown's] determination and effectiveness when working together in pursuit of their separate but dependent political objectives. In the right conditions they would make a powerful team if they decided it was time to enter Emu.

"The electorate would be softened up and any opponents of Emu branded as opponents of Europe or even anti-British. The “patriotic case”, a popular theme of both prime minister and chancellor, would be to the fore. It would not be easy but in the right circumstances it could work.

"Gordon Brown would continue to protect his flank in speeches and articles that drew attention to the failings in euroland. But at some stage along the road, when economic conditions were temporarily more propitious, Gordon might be prepared to jump off the fence in pursuit of his own political ambitions and the hope for proponents of entry would be that his vaunted “prudence” and perceived scepticism in the past would carry disproportionate weight as the government tried to take Britain in."


Sounds to me like a very cunning tactic. Risky, but cunning. It might just work, even now the strategy has been brought out into the open...

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