The more things change, the more they stay the same. In late 2011 the Centre for Policy Studies published Peter Oborne’s ‘Guilty Men’, which sought to catalogue many of the arguments and scare -stories used by those who wanted Britain to join the euro in the 1990s. Over the past week, many of those he identified as ‘guilty’ have been on our airwaves, seemingly making exactly the same arguments all over again in regard to Britain potentially changing its relationship with the European Union through a referendum.
The combination of Lib Dems, Peter Mandelson, Ken Clarke, Michael Heseltine, pro-integration German politicians, big business and Japanese car companies have looked like an extremely aged 1990s pro-euro tribute act. The problem for them is that their arguments have aged as well. Badly. Britain's relationship with the EU is changing, whether you like it or not. But the only lines the anti-changed terms of relationship crowd seem to have are the same scare-stories about inward investment that were used in the 1990s.
The key issue here is credibility – who can put their views to market and say that their judgement on the EU has been good in the past. Here’s a reminder of what some of these individuals and organisations said.
“On the pro-Euro side, a grand coalition of business, the unions and the substantial, sane, front-rank political figures. On the other side, a menagerie of has-beens, never-have-beens and loony tunes with only two things in common: their hostility to Europe and their unpopularity in Britain.” –The Observer, 31 January 1999
“With Greece now trading in euros, few will mourn the death of the drachma. Membership of the Eurozone offers the prospect of long-term economic stability.” – 8 January 2001
“That the Euro has arrived is also a tribute to the dedication and common sense of central bankers and treasury officials across Europe.” – 2 January 2002
“A happy 10th anniversary Emu – Europe’s currency union has been a remarkable success”, headline to a leading article in the Financial Times, 26 May 2008
Sir Colin Marshall, the former British Airways CEO who was then CBI president, warned of “the tide of Euro-scepticism which threatens to wash over the country”, and for good measure of “wilder anti-Europe positions being taken up in some quarters [which] are not just daft, they are dangerous”.
“Staying out of the Euro will mean progressive economic isolation for Britain. It will mean fewer foreign businesses investing here, fewer good jobs created and less trade being done with our European partners.” –Sunday Mirror, 18 May 2003.
“The price we would pay in lost investment and trade and jobs in Britain would be incalculable…” – Daily Telegraph, 20 May 2003.
“Britain’s economy will be damaged if we stay out too long.” -10 May 2003.
“Ireland has the sort of economic problems the British should die for.” - Independent, 23 August 1999.
“The Government will need to move fast after the election to start the process of joining the euro,” said John Monks of the TUC. “The alternative is that we pay a heavy price for staying outside, and then pay a heavy price for having to join far too late to have any real say in shaping the euro’s future.”
"Join the Euro or watch jobs vanish. It’s Brown’s choice: There’s one way to bring sterling down, but the government is wilfully blind” - Hugo Young, The Guardian, 6 April 2000.
Britain in Europe
"Up to a million jobs could be lost if Britain rejects the single currency, business and union leaders of the pro-Euro campaign, Britain in Europe, warned yesterday." – Guardian, 30 June 1999
“We could stop listening to the assorted maniacs, buffoons, empire-nostalgists, colonial press tycoons, Save The Groat anoraks and Yorkshire separatists of the Europhobe movement, and prepare for our earliest feasible entry into the euro. Once in the Euro we would immediately reap the benefit of our competitiveness, our goods competing – in eternity (which in economics is quite a long time) – on a level playing field.” – David Aaronovitch, Independent, 2 February 2001.
All worth bearing in mind as the debate rolls on, and I’m sure eurosceptics will remind these individuals of what they said in the coming weeks.