Security: UK 'must plan for euro collapse'

EU flag The committee said eurozone instability could force several EU countries to cut defence spending

Ministers should draw up plans to deal with a break-up of the eurozone "as a matter of urgency", a committee of MPs and peers has warned.

The joint committee on the government's National Security Strategy (NSS) said the full or partial collapse of the single currency was "plausible".

It said political unrest and a rise in economic migrant numbers could result.

"Long-term security" is at the heart of foreign policy thinking, the government said in response.

The committee, whose members include ex-MI5 director general Baroness Manningham-Buller, said economic instability could leave the UK "unable to defend itself".

It added that governments across the EU could be forced to cut defence spending if the instability were to continue.

"International economic problems could lead to our allies having to make considerable cuts to their defence spending, and to an increase in economic migrants between EU member states, and to domestic social or political unrest," it said.

And, while the committee welcomed the government's decision to publish the NSS alongside the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, it said that "a clear over-arching strategy" had not yet emerged.

Committee chairman and former Labour foreign secretary Margaret Beckett said: "A good strategy is realistic, is clear on the big questions, and guides choices. This one does not.

"We need a public debate on the sort of country we want the UK to be in future and whether our ambitions are realistic, given how much we are prepared to spend."

Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett, who chairs the committee, called for a public debate on UK ambitions

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that while the National Security Strategy was welcomed, the committee could find "no evidence" it had helped shape government decisions in cases such as Libya and Syria.

Mrs Beckett said the strategy had been drawn up "in some haste" after the 2010 general election and the review of due by 2015 needed to be a "much more thoughtful process".

In their wide-ranging report, the committee established to oversee the NSS and the National Security Council chaired by the prime minister, said Britain might also have to re-think its relationship with the US, as Washington realigned its strategic priorities and turned its focus away from Europe.

It said changing US priorities raised "fundamental questions if our pre-eminent defence and security relationship is with an ally who has interests which are increasingly divergent from our own".

The committee said that in an era of "diminished resources", the UK would have to take on a more "partnership-dependent" role in world affairs.

It stated: "We believe it is totally unrealistic not to expect any diminution in the UK's power and influence in the medium and long term."

In response, a government spokesman said ministers remained vigilant and regularly took stock of "the changing global environment" and threats to the UK's security.

"A strategy for Britain's long term security and prosperity is at the heart of the government's approach to foreign policy," he said.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    I suspect the euro will survive, albeit in a different form - certain countries like Greece and Portugal will be forced out. The main issues will revolve around Spain, Italy & France, all of which are too big to fail. Germany, which does extremely well out of the weakened euro, will have to dig deep to sustain these latter countries. Hollande's pending presidential victory will make it difficult.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    The Euro won't collapse. Germany and France, among others, have far too much invested in it to allow it to fail and, even with its current problems, it is holding its value against Sterling.

    What we will see, and are seeing, is those who oppose the single currency "talking it down" with doom and gloom and worse-case scenarios.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    Greece will end up defaulting later this year, which will be the start of the break up of the Eurozone. The risk is that Italy and Spain follow, at which point the Euro will go into freefall and the Eurozone project will need a radical re-think.

    Politicians have diverted attention to bankers and away from the ineptitude of the political leaders in the EU responsible for this mess.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    On the basis that there will never be total cohesion between differing economies and cultures, the Eurozone is doomed. I cannot understand how anybody, least of all our so-called leaders, could ever have thought otherwise.

    It should be dismantled in an orderly fashion, to limit the inevitable damage to the member states. Trade between them will not suffer in the slightest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    Where would Britain be if they were in the eurozone? Maybe in the position Germany is in at the moment. Not too bad, I would say. They deal the cards, their economy is far from faltering, and the euro is not going to collapse. Sure, Greece might benefit temporarily from leaving the eurozone, but that's about the only country. Other countries have benefited from the lowest inflation rates ever.


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