With Ireland now finally being forced to confront the reality of what membership of the euro has meant for its economy and means for its sovereignty, here’s Peter Oborne writing in the Daily Telegraph with some reminders about who was saying what about the euro twenty years ago:
[B]ack in 1990, Mrs Thatcher foresaw with painful clarity the devastation [the single currency] was bound to cause. Her autobiography records how she warned John Major, her euro-friendly chancellor of the exchequer, that the single currency could not accommodate both industrial powerhouses such as Germany and smaller countries such as Greece. Germany, forecast Thatcher, would be phobic about inflation, while the euro would prove fatal to the poorer countries because it would “devastate their inefficient economies”.
It is as if, all those years ago, the British prime minister possessed a crystal ball that enabled her to foresee the catastrophic events of the past year or so in Ireland, Greece and Portugal. Indeed, it is one of the tragedies of European history that the world chose not to believe her. President Mitterrand of France and Chancellor Kohl of Germany dismissed her words of caution. And when Mrs Thatcher was driven from office in 1990, a crucial voice was lost, and a new consensus started to form in Britain in favour of the euro.
This consensus stretched across the entire spectrum of the British establishment. It took in Tony Blair’s New Labour and all of Paddy Ashdown’s Liberal Democrats. The CBI came out for the euro, and so did the trades unions. The Foreign Office was doctrinally pro-single currency. Leading businessmen, such as Peter Sutherland (chairman of BP and Goldman Sachs International) and the fashion-conscious Richard Branson were strongly in favour. The Financial Times, a newspaper whose judgment has been wrong on every great economic issue of the last 40 years, was another supporter…
…One other point. Margaret Thatcher may have been the first victim of the single currency, but there have been many more since: the millions who have lost their jobs and the nations that are being stripped (as she forecast) of their pride and independence. Baroness Thatcher has often been accused by her politically motivated enemies of callousness. But backers of the European project are today happy to countenance unlimited human suffering in their mission to enforce economic and monetary union. Mrs Thatcher knew this would be the result of their deranged plan, which is why she fought to stop it. Her last battle as prime minister could not have been fought in a greater or more compassionate cause.