Beyond euroscepticism: Time for the alternative

Critics of the flawed euro project have been vindicated but gloating is premature. They need to set out their own vision

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Conservative dilemma
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Iain Martin
On 31 August 2012 11:22

Europe, home to some of the worst and most unworkable big ideas down the ages, has done it again. The continent may have spawned the Roman Empire, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. It may have given humanity Michelangelo and Mozart, Bach and Balzac, Canaletto and claret. But the European legacy also includes the Spanish Inquisition, Communism, Fascism and Nazism. To this formidable list of fanaticism and failure must surely now be added the euro — a lunatic project to impose the political integration of modern Europe through the creation of a single currency. 

It is not yet fashionable to see the euro and the European project of which it is the vehicle in quite such dramatic terms. The leaders and spokesmen for the various institutions trying to "save the euro" usually make bloodless statements against a bland bureaucratic backdrop. The effect is designed to be soothing and to distract us from the wickedness and irresponsibility of what is being done.

The headline record unemployment figure of 11.2 per cent in the 17 eurozone countries, though even worse than Britain's 8.1 per cent, masks the true extent of human misery involved. In the prosperous North unemployment is low, but in the South it is at dangerous levels as businesses fearful of the future lay off workers and stall on hiring.

Austrian unemployment stands at just 4.5 per cent, German at 6.8 per cent but in France and Italy it is over 10 per cent, while in Spain and Greece the figures are 24.8 per cent and 22.5 per cent respectively. Youth unemployment in the Mediterranean countries is even higher. In Spain, among those aged 16 to 24, an incredible 53.3 per cent are now out of work. 

The euro is doing this. Countries which should have their own currencies, and be able to devalue in order to begin the process of recovery, are straitjacketed by a one-size fits all policy.

If the euro was misconceived from the start, its design and execution were criminally negligent — as some economists, especially in Britain, warned at the time. (Notable among them were the economic advisers to Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair respectively, Sir Alan Walters and the late Derek Scott, both derided and ignored by Europhile panjandrums.)

Iain Martin is a political commentator who contributes to the Daily Telegraph, Sunday telegraph and the Daily Mail. Follow him on Twitter @iainmartin1

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