In the December 8 edition of The Times, page 34, Anatole Kaletsky writes:
“Germany, France, Italy and the other countries will have to merge into a single European State, from which Britain, of its own volition, is certain to be excluded.”
We were right, then, to retain the single currency and we are right, now, to have exercised our veto.
Much is being talked about us now being on the outside, not able to exert influence, that it will even adversely affect our position as a global power. No, I think not. I believe passionately in Europe. But we have demonstrated that we are still an independent people, both politically and geographically. We are a large island and group of islands comprising four nations and with an island mentality. We fare well, albeit under great hardship, when a great cause is put before us, or when our sovereignty is threatened.
Are we seeing the break up of the Euro? It is too early to tell. But here is a glimpse of a lunchtime meeting on 16 November 2004, 7 years ago, to which I had been invited when I was in the legal profession. It was a rather small group, just twelve, gathered together to hear a presentation by Professor Patrick Minford. Because our hosts were accountants and I was a probate lawyer I had niaively assumed we would be look at accounting as it affected our work on a daily basis. In fact, the twelve of us found ourselves listening very attentively to an exposition of global markets, the future of currency worldwide and, to my shock, the speaker’s quiet and categoric statement that we would in time leave Europe and before then would never enter a single currency.
It is interesting to see how things work out. And it is times like these that I am glad I retain my notes.
100 Old Hall Street Liverpool
Tuesday 16th November 2004
I had the pleasure of representing the Partners earlier today at a luncheon on the tenth floor of Rensburg’s suite of offices overlooking the Mersey and Sea. There were twelve of us in all, and I am pleased that we were included on Renbsurg’s list as there were no other legal firms represented. I am grateful for being given the opportunity to prepare this brief.
Professor Minford provides regular reviews and audits to both public and private sector clients but perhaps more importantly to Central Government.
His review was general – aimed at an overview of financial policy, both domestic and foreign.
1. We have never had such a period of growth and we have been able to sustain a recession free economy now for 12 years – unprecedented in our history.
2. Behind the scenes Central Government acknowledges that it inherited a strong economy.
3. The next election will undoubtedly see the government returned but there is a strong indication that the Conservatives will recover much lost ground.
4. However, they are not going to be in a strong enough position to assume government again until probably the election after that
5. Our history shows a tendency by the population to swing the pendulum about every 12 years – and this is probably healthy because the present government will have become ‘tired’ and unable to introduce radical new policies that will capture the electorate’s imagination
6. On the international scene, China is going all out to buy US dollars to secure its own economy. By doing this, it ensures that the dollar remains high and therefore allows its own products to be sold very cheaply – and the UK is taking huge advantage of this at present.
7. We have more Chinese Students in our Universities now than at any previous time in our history.
8. On Europe, there are some rough times ahead. We joined the EEC as a manufacturing economy – the other EEC countries also being manufacturing economies. It was akin to joining a club of like-minded people where we would all feel warm together and protected.
9. Unfortunately, successive governments until Mrs Thatcher failed to spot that the EEC was changing us from a manufacturing economy to a service economy. The upshot of it can be likened to being asked to pay £1,500 per annum golf membership when you don’t play golf. For the first year you might well think it is good. But the novelty wears off when your wife asks, but what are we getting out of this?
10. The economic prediction is that the electorate will eventually realise this and be confident enough to insist on leaving the European Union and aligning itself once again with United States and the Commonwealth of Nations.
11. One should not underestimate the behind the scenes influence of the Commonwealth in international affairs – central government, including the United States, have a tacit agreement to downplay this for public relations purposes but to fully support its very influential position in world affairs.
12. The nation is once again becoming very confident and the government too is confident – and this is due largely to the success of Mr Brown. He is widely recognised as the most successful Chancellor this country has had
13. How the next government will fare will depend on the Blair-Brown factor.
14. It is difficult to gauge what a Brown Premiership would bring about but one thing is quite certain behind the scenes at Cabinet level – a deep suspicion of Europe and evidenced by the Chancellor’s very effective and confident stance over the five tests for joining the Euro currency. Only a very strong and stable government could have taken such a stance.
15. Europe is very worried about the close relationship that has once again been established between the United States and Great Britain.
16. In Liverpool we see the return of container ships and lorries – even five years ago this was not envisaged.
17. People are beginning to wake up to the fact that we ARE a manufacturing nation – but the question is whether we have the expertise to rebuild and recapture that manufacturing economy.
18. The Unions had a crippling effect on our economy in the 1960s and 1970s. This government has had no problems at all in continuing the conservative policy of keeping the unions at arms length. However, we are faced with the problem that the European Parliament will now cause unions to regain that power under the European Constitution and which will be rigorously enforced by the European Judiciary. That judiciary will be similar to the United States Judiciary, able to have considerable influence over governments and heads of government.
19. During the last decade government took the view that if enough money was thrown at a project, then a solution would be found e.g. the railways. This proved to be disastrous. When the government attempted a similar initiative with the NHS, they ran into very strong opposition across the board from a highly intelligent electorate that knew that such a policy does not work.
20. So there is a pendulum swing back to privatisation and with it the charge that New Labour is Old Conservative in disguise! Neither should it be forgotten that the first official visitor summoned to Ten Downing Street the day after the prime minister was first elected was Baroness Thatcher, which many at the time regarded as an act of betrayal. And behind the scenes she has often advised the PM at his request.
21. Pensions – this is a very volatile market. There is a feeling amongst younger people that there is no point in pension planning. Spend now and sort the mess out later. It is our responsibility to educate young people into continuing to make pension provision. Yes, we acknowledged that the pensions market is a fiasco and all predictions pf the 1970s have failed. But until we find a way of dealing with the matter efficiently, we should still plan pensions and encourage the younger generation to do so too.
End of Paper
Let us see how things continue to pan out.
Ian Bradley Marshall