Really, Mr. Clegg?

by Andrew Stuttaford

Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg, Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister, is a career Eurofanatic, but this is a bit much:

In a veiled attack on Greece, Mr Clegg told The Andrew Marr Show: “The eurozone rules, as they were formed, have not been stuck to. Its foundations are weaker than anyone could have predicted.”

Uh, no. The idea that the euro zone was being put together in a way that was almost bound to end in disaster was pointed out by a wide number of commentators at the time (Milton Friedman, for one), but these were dismissed by the Cleggs of this world as the arguments of cranks.

For my part, I did not, back then, think too much about the European single currency (those were the days) other than to believe that it was wrong for the UK on both political (national sovereignty) and economic grounds: the British economy was so obviously out of sync with its neighbors that there appeared to be no realistic way that it could share a currency with them.  The workability of the proposed currency as a whole was not something on which I had focused.

That changed one evening in 1997 or thenabouts when John O’Sullivan (of course!) invited me to dinner with an economist by the name of Bernard Connolly. Dinner? It was a lecture, and a brilliant one. By the time I left the restaurant, I had little doubt that monetary union would eventually lead to disaster.

Connolly’s superb book on the drive towards a single currency – The Rotten Heart of Europe – had been published a year or two before (in the autumn of 1995). I read it within a week or two of that dinner. It’s a little late, but Mr. Clegg would still do well to check it out now.

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