Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Britain still vulnerable to euro crisis

by Marc Glendening

British taxpayers risk losing £8 billion if, as many are now predicting, Greece defaults on the EU/IMF loan in which we were forced to participate back in May last year.

Britain has being sucked into the current crisis affecting the eurozone under Article 122 of the Lisbon treaty, which was passed without the democratic consent of the electorate despite a referendum being promised by all political parties.

This article allows the EU Council of Ministers, by qualified majority vote, to provide collective assistance to a member state hit by "natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control...".

However, through a highly elastic and convenient interpretation by the EU elite, the clause is now being used to force countries outside the single currency to bail out those countries that have run into financial trouble.

It is effectively being used by the EU to help itself to billions of pounds of taxpayers' money - even from those countries who have chosen to remain outside the euro - to prop up their fundamentally flawed single currency project.

"Regrettable" billions

Back in November, the
House of Lords Treasury spokesman Lord Sassoon described the way Article 122 had been twisted by the EU as "regrettable".

With £8bn on the line, this must surely be a strong contender for the title of understatement of the year!

In reply to a question from Lord Pearson on 22 November, Sassoon said: "It is clearly regrettable that articles of the European Union treaty, such as Article 122, which should have been used for such things as natural disasters, has been enabled to be used for a mechanism in which the UK was committed to be a contributor by the previous Government."

With Portugal, Belgium, Spain and possibly Italy still facing major economic problems, and many now seeing eventual debt default by Greece and Ireland as inevitable, British taxpayers are facing huge potential liabilities.

Government weakness

In a belated bid to shut the stable door and end Britain's financial vulnerability to the euro's flaws,
David Cameron in December sought a "political commitment" from EU leaders that Article 122 would no longer be mis-used in this way.

However, the best he could achieve was an exemption for Britain once the new European Stability Mechanism is created via a treaty change - in 2013. Yet there may be plenty of bailouts between now and then!

Should both Portugal and, more seriously, Spain need financial assistance, it is estimated that Britain's liability under Article 122 will be £16 billion and David Cameron has effectively confirmed that his government is completely powerless to limit this.

Criticising his party leader's actions, Douglas Carswell, the Conservative MP for Clacton, said: "This latest failure shows the futility of the government's position. Unless it is willing to challenge the premise of EU membership and the terms on which we signed up, it can never get its way," he said. "The government is utterly impotent."

Referendum needed

The British people never consented to join the euro and yet we find ourselves having to risk billions of pounds to help sustain that dysfunctional system.

This is why we must have a referendum to decide whether or not we want to be bound by Article 122 and all the other provisions of the Lisbon treaty.

The only referendum that makes any sense now is one on whether we want to accept full EU political union or a new relationship based on trade and voluntary ad-hoc co-operation.

written by Marc Glendening

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