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Topical document: Euro warning

Our archive holdings contain many past echoes of today's issues and events. Our current topical document shows that fears about the sort of problems currently facing the single European currency have never been restricted to the political Right. Previous topical documents.
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box_27-3_part.jpgThis article from the February 1997 bulletin of the Labour Euro-Safeguards Campaign (LESC) claims that political pressures were overriding economic considerations in determining which countries would be eligible to join the Euro in 1999. Against the will of Germany (then as now widely seen as the main bastion of financial rectitude in Europe), the weaker economies of Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland (all of whose public finances have caused concern in the current crisis) were being made “through sleight of hand” to appear to conform to the ‘convergence criteria’ laid down in the Maastricht Treaty. Elsewhere in the article it is alleged that France and Belgium too were indulging in “unrepeatable massaging of their public sector accounts”, and a future of slow growth, higher unemployment and rising borrowing is predicted.

This and many other documents in this folder vividly illustrate the strong vein of ‘Euro-scepticism’, an outlook perhaps more often associated with Conservatism in current debates, in the Labour movement. Other sources held at the Centre, for example the Trades Union Congress archive, show that this way of thinking stretches back further than the 1990s. As well as other LESC publications, the folder includes statements by prominent figures such as Tony Benn and Peter Shore. Like the Conservative sceptics, they were concerned about the loss of national sovereignty, but they stressed that the consequences of this would be cuts in public expenditure and the erosion of the welfare state and workers’ rights.

The archives of the Confederation of British Industry, the main employers’ organisation, show that it was in favour of monetary union at this time. By contrast, this folder contains the Alternatives to Maastricht Newsletter for Autumn 1996 in which Ken Livingstone, a well-known left-winger, wrote that the terms of the Treaty of Maastricht were “likely to plunge the EU into the greatest crisis in its history”.

From the papers of J E ‘Jim’ Mortimer, trade unionist and Labour Party official (MSS.525 Box 27/3).