In a surprise to absolutely no-one, Britain’s finance minister, the gloomy and ambitious Gordon Brown, has now ruled that the UK is not yet ready to sign up for that suicide pact better known as the Euro – at least for now. At the same time, Brown is careful to burnish his federalist credentials by reiterating his view that joining the single currency could be a good idea – once certain tests have been met. The most important of these – that Gordon Brown replaces Tony Blair as Prime Minister – is left unstated, leaving Brown to resort to meaningless claims such as this:
“Our assessment makes clear that, with the advent of the single currency, trade within the euro area has already expanded and that, with Britain in the euro, British trade with the euro area could increase substantially – perhaps to the extent of 50 per cent over 30 years.”
In response, Philippe Legrain, ‘chief economist’ of the pressure group, Britain in Europe, reportedly had this to say to Reuters:
“Joining the euro is clearly in Britain’s economic interest. The Treasury has today confirmed that it would boost trade with the eurozone by up to 50 percent, raising income per person by 9.25 percent in the long term. That means joining the euro would make the average Briton 1,700 pounds richer. We cannot afford to pass up such a golden opportunity.”
The notion that the Treasury can “confirm” economic growth is a revealing glimpse of the EU’s mindset. Even more interesting (if he has been reported correctly) was Legrain’s failure to mention that this much-vaunted 50 percent ‘boost’ in trade * may take up to thirty years to reach*. Stretched over that period of time – and taking account of the effects of compounding – that 50 percent total is, in fact, pretty feeble.
And that’s something it has in common with the rest of the arguments for the Euro.