Political Editor Jonathan Walker asks West Midlands MEPs what the UK can do to save the euro
The UK should volunteer to underwrite the euro – and help bring stability to the entire European Union, according to a West Midlands MEP.
Speculators and traders had “declared war” on the economy of the entire European Union, which must stand united to see them off, said Labour MEP Michael Cashman.
He said the ten member states which had remained outside the euro, including the UK, must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the 17 nations in the eurozone and support the single currency.
Mr Cashman, speaking as EU leaders including David Cameron prepared to gather for a meeting of the European Council in Brussels, said collective action was necessary because every EU member was affected by the chaos gripping the eurozone.
But other MEPs expressed different views when asked by the Birmingham Post how the UK should respond to the crisis facing the single currency.
Conservative MEP Malcolm Harbour said the European Central Bank should become a true central bank, underwriting the euro – but this was a matter for the eurozone and not the UK.
Mr Cashman said the euro needed immediate support, and all 27 members states, including the UK, should be willing to guarantee it. Traders making a profit from the difficulties facing the euro and states such as Greece or Italy had “declared war, not just on the euro but on the entire 27 EU nations.”
The roots of the current crisis lay with the European Commission’s inability to force member states, not least France and Germany, to obey the rules they agreed to when they joined the single currency.
“Where we have gone wrong is not that we have too much regulation, as the eurosceptics would say. It’s that the regulation we have has not been enforced.”
Countries like Greece had been criticised for breaking rules governing the budget deficits they are allowed to run, but they were actually following the example of France and Germany, he said. Euro member states agreed to limit budget deficits to no more than three per cent of their total economy but France and Germany have been exceeding that limit on and off since 2003.
“What we need is to give the European Commission greater resources to enforce the regulations. In other words, a mandatory obligation to abide by the rules.”
By contrast, Mr Harbour (Con), chairman of the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, said the immediate task for the EU was to make the EU competitive again by reducing regulation.
“If you don’t get the single market working better for jobs and businesses then you won’t be able to get the growth that you need.”
To rescue the euro, Germany will have to agree to the European Central Bank becoming a true central bank which underwrites the debts of member states, he said.
“We have helped Ireland but we are not part of the euro. We are not part of the governing structure and we not in a position to help because of the position we are in at home.”
The Tory MEP rejected suggestions that Britain should use the crisis to claw back powers from Brussels, by demanding reforms as the price of supporting a new EU treaty.
“I don’t see this as an opportunity in the short term. The time to consider treaty changes would be after the euro has been stabilised.”
Independent MEP Nikki Sinclaire (Ind West Midlands) said the UK should leave the EU if Germany and France pressed ahead with proposals for a new treaty and greater political union.
“We need to have a fundamental discussions about Europe. My view has always been that if you are going to be part of a club then you need to do it properly.”
But the UK was unwilling to fully the embrace the EU – or to leave it, she said. “What we have is the worst of both worlds.”
And UKIP MEP Mike Nattrass said he did not believe the euro could be saved.
“If the euro is to succeed there has to be one taxation system. It has to be fully integrated and in practice it becomes one country.
“It is a flawed currency. I don’t believe the governments will ever agree to give up all their sovereignty.”
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel renewed calls this week for EU Treaty change to solve the single currency crisis.
They said they wanted change to be carried out by all 27 member states if possible – or at least the 17 eurozone countries.
Conservative eurosceptics are arguing that a new treaty should trigger the Government’s promise that “no further powers should be transferred to Brussels without a referendum”, as set out in the Coalition Agreement published last year.
Downing Street insists that there would be no need for a referendum because a new treary is expected only to transfer powers from the 17 eurozone countries to Brussels.
But Staffordshire MP and leading Tory eurosceptic Bill Cash (Con Stone) said: “This is a major treaty change, whether it is for the eurozone 17 or the EU 27, because it fundamentally changes the relationship of Britain to the EU. It therefore requires a referendum, irrespective of the attempt to bypass the British people with the European Union Act this year.’’