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25 July 2012

House of Lords EU Committee: Is UK exit from EU inevitable?

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The House of Lords EU Committee has written to Mark Hoban MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, to demand answers to a series of questions on the euro area crisis.

Written in the context of renewed turmoil in the financial markets, the wide-ranging letter addresses key questions including:

  • What more needs to be done to provide the inspired leadership in the EU necessary to make effective and efficient decisions in solving the crisis?
  • Will the ESM (European Stability Mechanism) firewall be large enough to secure Italy and Spain’s position, as their bond yields continue to rise?
  • Does the European Central Bank (ECB) have sufficient financial resources and tools to act as an effective backstop to the euro area? Would a treaty change be required to widen the ECB’s role?
  • What contingency planning are the UK Government and the European Commission taking to deal with the consequences of a potential Greek exit from the euro?
Commenting, Chairman of the EU Sub Committee for Economic and Financial Affairs, Lord Harrison, said:
“Whilst the 17 euro area Member States are making decisions in smoke-free rooms, the UK could be left outside fuming. Although the UK remains outside the euro area, it needs to ensure that it remains at the very centre of the EU and its single market.
“As the crisis unfolds, the need for decisive EU leadership in Brussels and wise UK leadership in London grows ever more acute.”
In its letter published today, the Committee voices serious concerns that the Government have not fully appreciated the consequences of their decision not to take part in the fundamental elements of a banking union. There is a risk that the UK could lose its ability to maintain influence on the EU and other Member States. The Minister is asked what the Government are doing to make sure that the UK is not marginalised from debate through the shifting of discussions outside the main EU channels to forums where the UK has no voice.
The Committee asks the Minister if the euro is likely to survive and how long euro area leaders can be expected to remain committed to providing such significant financial support to Greece. With regard to a potential Greek exit from the euro, the Committee stress the need for UK authorities to have plans in place to protect UK markets, entities and citizens from the turbulence that would result.
The letter is the result of ongoing scrutiny by the Lords EU Sub Committee on Economic and Financial Affairs of developments in the euro area and the Government’s response to these developments.  The Committee has taken evidence as a follow-up to its report on the euro area crisis (February 2012).

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