When it comes to the question of the pound joining the euro, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon B...
When it comes to the question of the pound joining the euro, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown wants everybody to know he is the boss. The decision belongs to his Government and in particular, to what he calls his "Treasury". Anybody else who has an opinion should put a lid on it, in his view.
So, is he in or is he out? None of your business. Whether he and his boss, Prime Minister Tony Blair, will put the matter to the electorate in the form of a referendum will depend on Brown's five points.
These involve whether there is a sustainable convergence between the economies of Britain and the 11-nation euro zone; whether sufficient flexibility exists to cope with economic change; the effect on investment; the impact on financial services; and how membership in the euro would affect employment
Is this Labour's message to the cabinet and to the people? Until you re-elect us, we will not discuss our probable but not certain, maybe but not perhaps, likely but not if it is unpopular, intention to give up the pound and adopt the euro. But you didn't hear that from us, unless you did hear it from us, in which case we go back to our five points, which we hasten to add, are not fudgeable.
How do they get away with it?
Well, you see, Blair has a cute boyish smile, and not only does he change diapers, but he can also choke back tears with the best of them. More importantly, nothing is going excessively wrong in the UK and people are feeling well off in the financial sense.
Anyway, Lady Thatcher made all the hard decisions for him, the ones that concerned bringing Britain back to a market economy through aggressive privatisation. All Blair has to do is sit back and enjoy the prosperity, which is always a wonderful refuge for an incumbent.
Now back to the five points. One of them concerns the effect of the decision on the City - the financial centre of London. Interestingly enough, Bank of England Governor Eddie George recently noted that Britain's decision so far to not participate in the euro has had virtually no effect.
The City is booming as much as ever. So make that four points, not five.
Here is how I think the employment and investment points will be played. If jobs for some reason are scarce when the referendum is called, the Labour Party will say going into the euro will create jobs and investment in Britain. Otherwise, they are dead letters. So make that two points, not four.
Sufficient flexibility to cope with economic change is the real wild card. I take it to mean that Brown is worried the European Central Bank (ECB) might turn into a lemon.
The question is how the ECB will be seen as dealing with differential economic conditions through-out its realm.
If the British people see the ECB with tight money to prevent inflation in the Northern countries of Europe while Southern countries languish with unemployment, then maybe someone might begin to wonder, "you know, mate, that could happen to us too".
David DeRosa in the New York Bloomberg newsroom
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