Gimcrack Currency, Flim-Flam Rescue

by Andrew Stuttaford

 Writing in the Daily TelegraphAmbrose Evans-Pritchard calls the latest, absolutely definitive, final euro rescue package for what it is:

The deal is not a “lousy compromise”, said Angela Merkel. Well, actually that is exactly what it is for eurozone politicians searching for a breakthrough. It tarts up the old Stability Pact without changing the substance (although there will be prior vetting of budgets). This “fiscal compact” is not going to make to make the slightest impression on global markets, and they are the judges who matter in this trial by fire.

Yes, there is more discipline for fiscal sinners, but without any transforming help. Even the old “Marshall Plan” of the July summit has bitten the dust. There is no shared debt issuance, no fiscal transfers, no move to an EU Treasury, no banking licence for the ESM rescue fund, and no change in the mandate of the European Central Bank. In short, there is no breakthrough of any kind that will convince Asian investors that this monetary union has viable governance or even a future.

Germany has kept the focus exclusively on fiscal deficits even though everybody must understand by now that this crisis was not caused by fiscal deficits (except in the case of Greece). Spain and Ireland were in surplus, and Italy had a primary surplus. As Sir Mervyn King [the Governor of the Bank of England] said last week, the disaster was caused by current account imbalances (Spain’s deficit, and Germany’s surplus), and by capital flows setting off private sector credit booms.

The Treaty proposals evade the core issue.

Did France and Germany really have to cause this rift by throwing in an assault on the City that has precious little do with the EMU crisis? Yes, I suppose they did. Given that Merkozy cannot bring themselves to accept that Europe’s debacle stems from the euro itself, from a 30pc currency misalignment between from North and South, and from an over-leveraged €23 trillion banking bubble that German, French, Dutch, Belgian regulators allowed to happen… given that, yes, I suppose they have to find a scapegoat.

They have to whip up a witch-hunt against somebody, so why not Anglo-Saxon bankers? Nasty reflexes are at work…

Indeed they are, and with Sarkozy’s chances for reelection in 2012 looking more than a touch dicey (the poor little fellow appears to be—to use a modish word—somewhat “isolated” from his electorate), expect more of this to come – a cornered rat is never a pretty sight.

It’s difficult to argue with much of what Mr. Evans Pritchard has to say in the excerpt reproduced above.  The obvious conclusion: Mr. Cameron may or may not be “isolated” from the rest of the EU’s leadership, but the EU’s leadership is undoubtedly isolated from reality. Under the circumstances, Cameron is in a better place.  

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