Democrat September-October 2002 (Number 65)
No more ERMs
Brian Denny explains why
TEN years after Britain escaped from the death grip of the Exchange Rate Mechanism and the threat of euro membership is still with us. The ERM was designed as a forerunner of the Euro, as a device to lock currencies into the straitjacket of a single exchange rate. The devastating effects of our brief experiment with handing control of our exchange rate to foreign powers is still etched on people's minds. The loss of 18 billion in currency reserves, millions of jobs and businesses down the drain and interest rates of 15 per cent led to the collapse in confidence in John Major's eurofanatic Conservative Party and paved the way for a Labour government.
Unfortunately, Tony Blair's regime has been determined to make the same mistakes as previous Tory administrations and force through the eurofederalist empire-building project. Yet the plan is in utter turmoil.
Ludicrous claims from Britain in Europe that British people would warm to the euro once they had been on holiday have rebounded back in their faces. Opposition to euro membership has never been higher, one poll put it as low as 26 per cent. Adding insult to injury, scientists even warned that the nickel in euro coinage can cause irritating skin complaints.
The dire economic situation inside the eurozone has blunted all the europhile claims of the Shangri-la promised once economic control had been handed over to the European Central Bank. All the forecasters are downgrading their expectations for the eurozone. Poverty-stricken Portugal is facing billions of pounds of fines for "overspending", breaking the Stability pact rules. Germany, the so-called "heart of Europe", is also suffering. Why? Because the interest rate is simply wrong for their currency and there is nothing the authorities can do about it except leave the eurozone, and more and more Germans believe that is what must happen.
The Maastricht Treaty and the infamous Stability Pact gives unprecedented powers to the ECB and insulates it from any form of democratic accountability. It also places strict limits on budget deficits and it is hurting everywhere. German European Commission advisor Horst Siebert admitted in the FT in July the pact was "a critical safeguard against the weak spot that sovereign nation states represent." Charming.
A sign of the depth of the federalists despair is an admission by leading eurofanatic Observer editor Will Hutton that the Stability Pact will be binned and a new one cobbled together (he doesn't say who by) so that EU integration can continue. Any campaign by the Blairites has also been undermined by a number of sea changes currently taking place within the country.
Firstly, the British Chamber of Commerce, which represents 130,000 companies have gone cold on backing euro membership. No company even agreed to provide the 30,000 sponsorship needed and the poll has been shelved.
Secondly, the trade union movement is finally standing up against the fanatical pro-euro position of TUC general secretary John Monks and a few camp followers.
The defeat of leading right wing europhile Sir Ken Jackson as leader of engineering union Amicus and the election of left winger Derek Simpson was another boost for democratic forces in the Labour movement. Derek's call for an audit of the hundreds of thousands of pounds Sir Ken poured into Britain in Europe has exposed the extent of Amicus had funded the corporate enemy.
This defeat for BiE was in evidence at TUC Congress in Blackpool as they didn't even bother to have a fringe meeting and delegates avoided their stall like the plague. T&G general secretary also warned that Labour would lose the next election on a platform of backing euro membership. The pro-euro TUC leadership suffered a defeat at Congress after the British trade union movement added a new test that must be passed before the referendum is held, that is, will the euro will be in our best interests?
The composite euro motion enabled previously very pro-euro unions to reveal the extent of their caution and the conditions that they want to see met before they will support entry. Rather than seeing the euro as a potential solution, they recognise it as a potential danger. The motion calls for the TUC to present information to Congress concerning prices, unemployment, public spending, industrial relations and manufacturing throughout the eurozone countries.
Much reporting of the debate inaccurately said that a General Council statement on the euro had been passed. This is not the case. The motion alone guides the General Council's work over the coming year.
Apart from gathering information the General Council has to take note of the mood of Congress that was to ensure that there was a recall of Congress before any such referendum. Speakers from all parts of the spectrum called for this and the response was given that the General Secretary was committed to convening a `Conference' on the matter. A Conference is not good enough. A full Congress should be recalled and nothing less and this should be preceded by accurate and objective information sharing about the position of trade unionists in the euro countries.
Work still to do
This year's TUC debate revealed also how much there is to be done. Just over a third of TUC affiliates do not have policy on the matter. Worse still most of the manufacturing Unions still believe that the euro will solve their problems and rebuild industry. A bizarre contribution at Congress from new PCS general secretary Mark Serworka, claiming that the corporate euro project was about "internationalism", shows how far there is still to go. Others still believe that with the imposition of legislation we have had from Europe that the low price of the Social Chapter is worth the high price of the euro. We must demonstrate that the drive to the euro is the cause of PPP and the hated PFI.
26 October meeting
We need to ensure that it is debated as a priority in every union. Trade unions and anti-EU campaigners and international guests will get together on October 26th 2002 at 1.00pm in Friends Meeting House Euston Road London to rally against the euro and plan the next stage of the struggle for democracy (see also back page).
Now is the time to press our advantage.