David Cameron on the euro crisis

This is British Prime Minister David Cameron on the euro crisis:

“Just as in Britain we need to deal with the deficit and restore competitiveness, so the same is true of Europe…

…A rigid system that locks down each state’s monetary flexibility yet limits fiscal transfers between them can only resolve its internal imbalances through painful and prolonged adjustment.

So in my view, three things need to happen if the single currency is to function properly.

First, the high deficit, low competitiveness countries in the periphery of the Eurozone do need to confront their problems head on. They need to continue taking difficult steps to cut their spending, increase their revenues and undergo structural reform to become competitive. The idea that high deficit countries can borrow and spend their way to recovery is a dangerous delusion.

But it is becoming increasingly clear that they are less likely to be able to sustain that necessary adjustment economically or politically unless the core of the Eurozone, including through the ECB, does more to support demand and share the burden of adjustment.

In Britain we are able to ease that adjustment through loose monetary policy and a flexible exchange rate. And we are supplementing that monetary stimulus with active interventions such as credit easing, mortgage indemnities for first time buyers and guarantees for new infrastructure projects.

So I welcome the opportunity to explore new options for such monetary activism at a European level, for example through President Hollande’s ideas for project bonds. But to rebalance your economy in a currency union at a time of global economic weakness you need more fundamental support.

Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble is right to recognise rising wages in his country can play a part in correcting these imbalances but monetary policy in the Eurozone must also do more.

Second, the Eurozone needs to put in place governance arrangements that create confidence for the future. And as the British Government has been arguing for a year now that means following the logic of monetary union towards solutions that deliver greater forms of collective support and collective responsibility of which Eurobonds are one possible example. Steps such as these are needed to put an end to speculation about the future of the euro.

And third, we all need to address Europe’s overall low productivity and lack of economic dynamism, which remains its Achilles Heel. Most EU member states are becoming less competitive compared to the rest of the world, not more.

The Single Market is incomplete and competition throughout Europe is too constrained. Indeed, Britain has long been arguing for a pro-business, pro-growth agenda in Europe.

That’s why ahead of the last European Council I formed an unprecedented alliance with 11 other EU leaders setting out an action plan for jobs and growth in Europe and pushing for the completion of the Single Market in Services and Digital.

The Eurozone is at a cross-roads. It either has to make-up or it is looking at a potential break-up. Either Europe has a committed, stable, successful Eurozone with an effective firewall, well capitalised and regulated banks, a system of fiscal burden sharing, and supportive monetary policy across the Eurozone.

Or we are in unchartered territory which carries huge risks for everybody. As I have consistently said it is in Britain’s interest for the Eurozone to sort out its problems.

But be in no doubt: whichever path is chosen, I am prepared to do whatever is necessary to protect this country and secure our economy and financial system.”

While I certainly do not agree with everything that Cameron is saying I think it is tremendously important that he acknowledges that this crisis can only be solved by monetary easing from the ECB, while European governments at the same time should continue fiscal consolidation. Unfortunately Cameron apparently is the only European leader who seems to understand this.

Some how everything in Europe these days remind me of 1931-32. Britain of course successfully gave up the gold standard in 1931. The rest of the Europe governments (with the exception of the Nordic countries who followed the lead from Britain and gave up the gold standard) hated the British government for that decision. I hope they will not hate Cameron for his very sound advise today.

PS Britmouse also comments on Cameron’s speech here.

UPDATE: Scott Sumner now also have a comment on Cameron’s speech – unfortunately Scott misses the important European dimension of Cameron speech.

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4 Comments

  1. Cameron does produce some very sensible speeches. And at other times he spouts complete drivel. I do wonder whether he really gets the importance of monetary policy, or maybe he just has a good speechwriter.

    Reply
    • dwb

       /  May 18, 2012

      “Cameron does produce some very sensible speeches. And at other times he spouts complete drivel. I do wonder whether he really gets the importance of monetary policy, or maybe he just has a good speechwriter.”

      i lived in London for a while before he was elected. I have always secretly suspected he did not buy into the “expansionary fiscal contraction” that Krugman always talk about and just wanted to cut the size of govt. No politician will ever say: “We really need to cut the size of government which might cause some short term pain, we don’t know when the pain will end, but ole Mervyn over there will try to make the process as smooth as possible by printing money and soon y’all will have nice private sector jobs.” the typical reaction is: “crap! unemployment and inflation! what are they thinking!”

      hence the lies and the drivel. just my theory. this speech kinda confirms it.

      Reply
  2. Britmouse, I am not sure what to make of Cameron either, but the signals on monetary policy has been pretty consistent. In fact it is interesting to see how British conservatives (and libertarians for that matter) are significantly more open to monetary easing than conservatives in the US and in Continental Europe. I believe that is because of the ill-fated experience with a peg exchange rate regime in the early 90ties.

    Reply
    • Yeah, and Cameron was working for Lamont in the Treasury when the UK tried importing Buba monetary policy, an experience he cannot have forgotten.

      Reply

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