Global economy: Britain out of Europe

David Cameron

Today's headlines have rightly focused on the starkness of David Cameron's message - his warning that the world could soon be staring down the barrel if eurozone governments don't tackle their debt and their lack of competitiveness.

However, just as significant - at least in the long term - is the fact that the British prime minister wrote his letter calling for action to save the world economy not with European leaders but to them.

Cameron's joint signatories were his Canadian, Australian, South Korean, Indonesian and Mexican counterparts. In other words, on the biggest macroeconomic policy question of the day Britain is not part of Europe, it is looking on from outside.

When Ireland first got into trouble the prime minister told his advisers that he was minded to give a speech calling on the eurozone to take the next logical steps towards integration.

He felt that his call would carry weight given that it would be coming from a British, Eurosceptic Conservative. George Osborne was amongst those who said that that was precisely why he should not make it - the risk was that it would look like another British lecture to a club we'd refused to join.

Besides, went the argument, the EU will muddle through - they always do. Finally the PM has delivered his message along with members of the Commonwealth and developing countries.

Britain's relationship with the EU is changing not because of any decision taken in Westminster or by the British people but thanks to "events, dear boy, events". Whether you find this a relief or a frustration is a good indication of whether you are a Euro-sceptic or a Euro-enthusiast.

If you feel a bit of both you are where the pollsters say most voters have been since Britain joined the Common Market - that is, someone who believes we cannot afford to be out but doesn't much like being in.

For years our political leaders have tried to change the attitudes of a country summed up by that old newspaper headline - "Fog in the Channel. Continent cut off." The headline these days should probably be just one word - "Fog" - although perhaps a second headline might help "No-one can see where they're going."

PS The prime minister clearly signalled in his Channel 4 interview how he would react to Lib Dem Cabinet ministers asking him to spend or Tories who might call on him to cut taxes:

"[B]ecause we were left such a massive budget deficit there isn't the opportunity to cut taxes and spend more can't spend your way out of a debt crisis."

He also indicated that he is putting his faith in the Bank of England and supply side measures to stimulate growth:

"Interest rates are already incredibly low but I believe in monetary activism, using monetary policy where possible. But the most important thing we can do is actually to improve the productivity and the efficiency of our economy. Make it easier to employ someone. Make it easier to set up a business. Make it easier to grow, to build, to expand. Those are the steps that we're taking in a very, very aggressive growth plan."

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    250 John_from_Hendon

    "I wonder why Nick R's latest blog is not available for comments?

    Could it be BBC political bias?"

    About Ed MIliband's comments, ideas, vision, policies etc ? Perhaps the BBC want a blank sheet of paper about... a blank sheet of paper....

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    255. Strictly
    This isn’t about private v public sector. Pensions or pay. Its about tightening any slack in performance. Responsibility, accountability, working smart in areas of the civil service that need it. You know I believe in the public sector. Lots of good people there, perhaps in some areas they need some more, along with some reform. All easily possible under the public umbrella.

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    254 john.251 feed.255. strictly248. john from h.
    Im positive under the right conditions, civil service can operate more efficiently/effectively. If I was a government minister and not an IT expert, I would be relying on people below me who negotiated/managed contracts etc to know what they were doing. If an idea is wrong its wrong, if it had legs id expect to be able to delegate confidently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    I thought moribund was learning but in his pre-conference guardian interview he is quoted as;

    "We have got to break this government's addiction to austerity because it is not working," he said.

    Nick Robinson hailed milibands 'big new idea'

    sounds like a rather old idea - tax and spend - borrow and spend.

    I suppose there will be some that will still vote for that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    248 JFH think you are discounting the cost of being part of a statist regulation driven club. Its bad enough to cope with all the drivel that westminster chruns out. Yes it provides access to a large market but this can be had without even being a full member (ref Norway). The currency risks are only material on longer projects and they can be hedged. Not a huge problem for what UK want to sell.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    246/247 lefty11

    "senior non political civil servants who .. would have been fired long ago if they had worked in the private sector. The civil service needs a huge shake up, we want our money to be spent efficiently.."

    Wow! This isn't like you lefty ... are you feeling OK ?

    Perhaps you're one of several IDs used by a multiple ID poster, and they've posted under the wrong name. Remarkable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    #247 lefty11 "The real culprits were senior non political civil servants who frankly would have been fired long ago if they had worked in the private sector"

    Glad to see you are a convert to private sector discipline. Osborne will be pleased.

    There has been one public sector fiasco after another, and, as you say, the responsibility starts at the top.

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    250 JFH - no comments link - wild guess requires IT team to set it up and sunday evening isnt the best timing for them. We could just comment on it here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.


    Your faith in the euro is touching, but wrong-headed.

    Variable exchange rates allow economies with varying degrees of productivity to compete with each other.

    If the exchange rate is fixed then labour costs will need to fall in less productive economies such as Greece. This is economically feasible, but almost politically impossible. Hence the eurozone crisis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    246 Lefty - I'll ignore the adhominem playground attack but 100 chars reduces everything to primary school level. I've run the odd IT project. There is huge potential for wasting money if you are stupid. Labour were stupid across a surprisingly wide range of subjects. However there is every chance that condems will be as stupid as the labour impossible though that might seem right now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    I wonder why Nick R's latest blog is not available for comments?

    Could it be BBC political bias?

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    244. fbl

    I know I do bang on about the Euro & I do so becasue of its commercial efficiency benefits - a fixed price for purchases and sales throughout 600 million people. I hate the total waste of money that results from variable exchange rates, commission on currency transactions & the huge economic disadvantage of being outside the fixed prices/costs zone. I've been there, done that, for ages!

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    247. lefty11

    Glad to see that you believe, as I do, that we can only get an improvident in the permanent government of the 'sceptic' isle if we start FIRING PERMANENT SECRETARIES for disasters on their watch. It is meant to be the civil service - to serve the 'civitates' (i.e. US), not to serve the personal interests of the service itself!

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    246 cont
    The real culprits were senior non political civil servants who frankly would have been fired long ago if they had worked in the private sector. The civil service needs a huge shake up, we want our money to be spent efficiently, more organisation, planning and accountability for failure would be a start. Ministers cant produce policy and micro manage all civil servants at the same time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    243. feedbackloop
    Some truth in what you wrote but the list of failures are all very different and more complex than your primary school tirade. For example this nhs computer issue. The idea of a computer system replacing old paper medical files was a good one.
    The incredible cost and managing of the project cannot just be blamed on ministers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    Posters have raised the problem of statistical accuracy.

    Statistics are never accurate & have never been accurate & have always been partial. Everything is fiddled!

    Thatcher was one of the worst offenders!

    Hi John That's right + Atlee, Eden, MacMillan, Wilson, Heath, Callaghan - were all at it - because their 'Sir Humphrey's' made sure the stats were fiddled

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    242 JFH I dont work for a bank - unlike most of them I can add up.

    Not sure being in the Euro right now would add up to a good idea if you know what I mean, but if you think a fixed exchange rate and implied liability for greece's debt is good and you believe that EEC membership has reduced business costs I'm not sure you can add up either !

    Hey you dont work for a bank do you ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    Labour did not cause the financial crisis, but did fail to regulate banks, fail to deliver a surplus, pump money into an unreformed p sector, give us disastrous PFI, NHS computers, Firecontrol, MOD etc. Preside over a crass increase in statitism, fail on imigration, education, health law and order and foreign policy. Could Snooty and his pal possibly do worse ? I'm sure they will find a way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    240. feedbackloop "keep() us out of the Euro - lucky us"


    The legacy of being marginalised in Europe is immensely damaging to the job prospects of millions of Britians and results in hugely increased business costs and the cost of holidays & travel in Europe - but maybe you work for a bank - as they are the ONLY part of the British economy to benefit from the UK being kept out of the Euro!

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    237. BluesBerry "the BoE has not managed to electrify the British economy"

    The bunch of deadbeats couldn't electrify an electric eel!

    The have no conception of the necessity for the price on money to encourage prudence if the economy is every to 'recover'. (and by recover I mean provide sufficient jobs fro our fellow citizens.) Their economics has been corrupted by the banks.


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